Comments

  1. says

    ‘The Big Lie’ is not a phrase in need of a new definition

    Donald Trump and his allies were peddling lies about the 2020 presidential election within hours of the polls closing on Nov. 3 […] The intensity of the deceptive propaganda reached dangerous levels in early January, culminating in an insurrectionist attack on the U.S. Capitol.

    A few days later, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” and was asked about colleagues such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose recklessness contributed to the unrest. “They’re going to have a lot of soul searching to do,” Toomey said in the interview. “And the problem is they were complicit in the Big Lie…. That’s going to haunt them for a very long time.”

    There was no mystery as to what the Pennsylvania senator was referring to. Much of the political world had already recognized the significance of the “Big Lie” framing and the degree to which Trump and his followers had embraced it. NBC News added yesterday, use of the Big Lie “to describe Trump’s false narrative of a stolen election — a reference to a Nazi propaganda strategy — was popularized earlier this year.”

    And now, evidently, the former president has decided to rebrand it, issuing this written statement yesterday. “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!”

    In other words, as far as Trump is concerned, his lie isn’t the lie. The former president would have people believe that the real lie is that he lost the election.

    As a matter of political propaganda, this is ham-fisted, clumsy, and impossible to take seriously. But I’m also struck by the frequency with which Trump has decided that he’s unsatisfied with the actual meaning of words and phrases, leading him to try to commandeer the language to suit his own purposes.

    […] When Russian disinformation sources tried to boost the Republican’s 2016 candidacy, Trump decided to change the meaning of “fake news,” applying it to independent journalism he didn’t like.

    […] Trump similarly tried to change the labels and definitions of everything from the coronavirus to the “Southern White House.”

    At issue is a political figure who believes the existing definitions of words and phrases are fine, until he thinks of a way to manipulate language to his benefit. At that point, the language should be redefined — or at times, un-defined — in order to suit his purposes.

    About a month into his White House term, Trump bragged at a meeting with business leaders, “I’m good at branding.” What I think the Republican probably meant with the boast is that he’s preoccupied with branding, and as we were reminded yesterday, he still is.

  2. says

    Police go missing as Proud Boys shut down public park in Oregon for armed far-right rally

    When the Proud Boys and their far-right cohorts led the violent Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, they did so largely operating under their longstanding belief that the police were on their side. This weekend, breaking their weeks of quiet amid a stream of post-Jan. 6 arrests, they held an armed “Second Amendment” rally in Salem, Oregon—without a whiff of police presence.

    That meant that the Proud Boys, acting as gun-bearing “security” for the “One Nation, One God” rally on Saturday at Salem’s Riverfront Park—an event that had no permit from the city—were able to close off access to anyone deemed undesirable, threatening both journalists and citizens with impunity. The only sign of law enforcement was a police helicopter hovering overhead.

    Journalist Tim Gruver of The CenterSquare Oregon was threatened by Proud Boys and refused entrance to cover the event. “Riverfront is a public park,” Gruver noted on Twitter. “Families are gathered right next door.”

    […] Promoted online as a “May Day 2A Rally,” the event drew 100-200 attendees, according to reporters. They were observed carrying semi-automatic pistols or rifles. And despite the lack of any authority to do so, they “closed” the public park to media and forced out anyone they believed didn’t belong, including at least one elderly man who was just walking through the park.

    Oregon Proud Boys have deep connections to the Jan. 6 insurrection, including two brothers who were arrested for their roles in the Capitol siege. Moreover, their participation in the invasion of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem on Dec. 21 was in many ways a powerful precursor of the Jan. 6 event, especially in terms of the far right’s antidemocratic strategies.

    The leading scheduled speaker for the event was Rep. Mike Nearman, the Dalles-based state House member who was seen on video opening a door to allow insurrectionists into the building on Dec. 21. Nearman has been charged with two misdemeanors—official misconduct in the first degree and criminal trespass in the second degree—for that act.

    However, Nearman was a no-show. Instead, the best-known speaker Saturday was Jo Rae Perkins, the QAnon-loving Republican nominee for Oregon’s U.S. Senate seat in 2020. Perkins called COVID-19 vaccines a “bioweapon,” repeated false “stolen election” claims, and claimed the state is “going after your children.” [OMFG]

    […] “The Proud Boys are basically illegally taking over Riverfront park for the day and are forcefully ejecting people they don’t like,” tweeted one citizen. “They have weapons. Salem PD are doing nothing […]”

    One elderly man posted a description of the scene on Facebook:

    Just took a stroll through our Riverfront Park which Republicans and other fascists had commandeered for their meeting. A large number of men, mostly with sidearms, in Proud Boys uniforms, mainly military belts and camouflage, and also American flags and Trump paraphernalia.

    […] The atmosphere of hatred and blind, ignorant fury was unbelievable.

    I was going to stay until Representative Nearman gave his speech but before we got to that part of the program four heavily armed and uniformed Proud boys sat down next to me and said they were going to escort me out of there, saying the “organizers” didn’t want me there.

    I naturally complied and as we were walking out I asked the one who seemed to be their spokesman what would happen if I didn’t agree to leave as told, would they forcibly evict me. He said we could do it either way it was up to me. […]

    Another Salem resident posted about his experience on Reddit:

    I was walking past the fisherman statue towards the carousel with one of the kids I support when we saw a group of them walking by, so we cut through the grass towards the front of the carousel. I snapped a picture to post to snapchat and they started following me, yelling “give me that phone fucker.” They started getting closer so we started hurrying to the gates. I had to stop when I got separated from the kid I support. They started shoving me telling me that I needed to go. One grabbed a hold of me so I tried to stabilize myself and one of them held me while a couple others started swinging at me. It felt like four or five were there but it was more likely only two or three of them involved in the scuffle. They smacked me in the head a couple times and got my ribs and back before throwing me on the ground. They wouldn’t let me go back to the kid I support while she was still in the park so I had to walk along the train tracks and she had to follow me on the opposite side of the fence. She was being followed by somebody wearing a ballistic vest and holding a pistol at their side. We ended up back together at the parking lot by the gilbert house and they stopped following her.

    The same man commented later that police did come to his home for a statement:

    Police came by the house I’m working at and asked me questions. Dude spent the entire time basically trying to ask whether or not I was agitating them. Officer said “It’s not normal for them to do that unprovoked, but you’re not the first person they’ve thrown out today.”

    […] “Hate and intimidation has no place in our community, and those who explicitly or subtly encourage violence should be held accountable.”

  3. says

    DC offering free beer to residents who get a coronavirus vaccine

    Washingtonians will be able to get a free beer alongside their coronavirus vaccine this week.

    Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced on Tuesday that individuals can get Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine and a beer from Solace Brewing Co., a Washington area craft brewery, on Thursday.

    The giveaway will be held at The Reach, an expansion outside the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Residents do not need to make an appointment to receive their vaccine. […]

  4. says

    Judge orders release of Trump obstruction memo, accuses Barr of being ‘disingenuous’

    A federal judge has ordered the Department of Justice to release a March 2019 legal memo that advised then-Attorney General William Barr that the special counsel’s investigation did not support prosecuting former President Trump, issuing a scathing decision that accused Barr and department lawyers of deceiving the public.

    District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Monday ordered the DOJ to release the legal memo in two weeks in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW).

    The DOJ had argued in court that the full memo, portions of which have already been released, should be withheld because it fell under exceptions to the public records law for attorney-client privilege and deliberative government decision making.

    But Jackson said on Monday that those claims were not consistent with her own review of the unredacted memo nor the timeline revealed by internal emails among top Justice Department officials.

    […] “not only was the Attorney General being disingenuous then, but DOJ has been disingenuous to this Court with respect to the existence of a decision-making process that should be shielded by the deliberative process privilege.”

    “The agency’s redactions and incomplete explanations obfuscate the true purpose of the memorandum, and the excised portions belie the notion that it fell to the Attorney General to make a prosecution decision or that any such decision was on the table at any time,” she added.

  5. says

    MAGA World Thinks The Sketchy AZ Audit Will Pave The Way To A 2020 Reversal

    When the leaders of a review of Arizona’s election were trying to convince a judge not to halt their sketchy audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 results, they claimed they’d be perfectly happy to find that nothing was amiss in the tally.

    […] Far-right blogs like Gateway Pundit have seen criticisms of the review as a sign that Democrats are “terrified” of the “alleged massive fraud” the audit may expose.

    One America News Network (OAN) has framed up its coverage of the Arizona review as just the first in what could be a series of audits in other states where former President Trump contested his defeat.

    Trump himself, speaking to a crowd at Mar-A-Lago last week, remarked on the “interesting things” that were happening in Arizona.

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if they found thousands and thousands and thousands of votes,” Trump said, as he rattled off several other battleground states that he had targeted with his claims of mass voter fraud.

    Trump may be watching the audit from afar. But several of his supporters who boosted his crusade to overturn the election have a direct hand in the audit, which started last month at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. And as the recount chugs along, the wider MAGA world is pinning its hopes on the effort as a key step to finally — finally — overturning the election.

    […] Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature was one of several GOP state houses across the country to entertain President Trump’s voter fraud theories after he lost his reelection bid. Over time, state Republican lawmakers came to embrace the idea of an audit spearheaded by the Senate that, in the words of one committee chairman, would “put this to rest.”

    […] Cyber Ninjas [CEO Doug Logan], [Cyber Ninjas is the Florida-based firm hired to lead the audit] promoted false claims of a stolen election in 2020 […]

    He authored a document, titled “Election Fraud Facts & Details,” which was published on the website of Sidney Powell, the pro-Trump lawyer who filed several Trump-aligned court challenges and now faces a 10-figure defamation suit from Dominion Voting Systems.

    Another fringe pro-Trump lawyer, Lin Wood, confirmed to TPM last month that Logan was at Wood’s property in November last year, “working on the investigation into election fraud” with others.

    Wood has helped to raise private funding for the Arizona recount […]

    The official audit Twitter page has leaned into the fringe fundraising effort. On Saturday, a few hours after the account promoted fundtheaudit.com — a website “powered by” Byne’s group The America Project — Fund The Audit said that it had raised $1 million. OAN anchor Christina Bobb is reporting on the audit while also fundraising for it.

    It’s just another scam to raise money.

    […] Other election conspiracists have their handprints on the audit itself. A former state representative who sought to overturn the 2020 presidential results in Arizona, Anthony Kern, is working at the audit as a “temporary hired employee” of one of its contractors. Kern, in his last days in office, riled up a D.C. crowd a day before the attack by pledging his life for Trump. A picture the following day showed him on the Capitol steps as the attack took place.

    The audit is also employing technology developed by Jovan Pulitzer, another election conspiracy theorist who Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) referred to as a “failed inventor and failed treasure hunter” when Pulitzer’s claims popped up in that state.

    […] fantasies of mass fraud in the 2020 election. For instance, the procedures instruct auditors to take note of how certain ballots are folded and the ink being used — details that don’t really make a difference in the context of how Arizona elections are run but seem to play into conspiracy theories about counterfeit ballots flooding the election.

    […] Peter Navarro, a Trump White House advisor and the author of several reports asserting mass election fraud, told OAN last week that he believed the Arizona audit could precede a similar audit in Georgia, where the scale of voter fraud was, in his universe, “much larger.”

    Speaking to Steve Bannon Thursday, Trump supporter Boris Epshteyn said that if the audit shows “even a small fraction” of what the former president’s devotees expect, “the freight train of audit is coming down the way. It’s on the train to Georgia.”

    And at a Monday town hall in Windham, New Hampshire — one of the states Trump mentioned in his remarks about the Arizona recount last week — attendees demanded a Maricopa-style audit while chanting “stop the steal!”

  6. says

    Follow-up to comment 4.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    One of the “auditors” is a guy named Kern, a former state legislator who was found to have stolen a laptop AND who participated in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

    Real cool guy and so neutral…NOT
    ————————
    I’ve never understood the game plan. “Oh sure, nobody will mind if our losing candidate tries to overthrow the government” seems like they haven’t really thought this through. The only plausible theory is that they are grifting the heck out of their rubes, but that seems shortsighted too. If you can’t hold the con, marks are going to come looking for you.
    —————————–
    The marks really, really don’t want to acknowledge the con. Their psyches would collapse.
    ————————–
    Peter Navarro and Boris Epshteyn, huh? Short of actual stakes through the heart nothing will stop these undead ghouls from raving on.
    —————————
    The game plan is to keep the ‘big lie’ in the news and justify giving the ‘former guy’ another free pass through the GOP primaries in 2024.

    Where they hope between gerrymandering and voter suppression to win again.
    ——————————-
    How is it possible for people to embrace the preposterous fever dream of the far right noise yet ignore the myriad of court cases that put this nonsense out of its misery is anybody s guess…it is terrifying spectacle on its own level…

  7. lumipuna says

    Re 489 on previous page:

    NYT:
    “Reaching ‘Herd Immunity’ Is Unlikely in the U.S., Experts Now Believe”
    Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent hesitancy about vaccines will keep the goal out of reach.

    Journalist Amanda Marcotte has long argued that the US needs to end covid restrictions reasonably soon, with less than optimal vaccine coverage, because waiting until herd immunity is not realistic. Especially not when Republicans are bent on sabotaging the vaccine drive, and will then politically weaponize the resulting “endless lockdown” if given half a chance. According to Marcotte’s estimate, shaming and pleading conservative anti-vaxxers will only cause them to double down. On the contrary, she suggests that Republican voters will likely lose some of their interest in the anti-vaccine stance if it can’t be used to escalate cultural division and hold the nation hostage.

    https://twitter.com/AmandaMarcotte/status/1389168619842592769

  8. tomh says

    DOJ Must Turn Over Secret Trump-Era Memo That Judge Finds ‘Calls Into Question’ Bill Barr’s Statement to Congress About Obstruction, Mueller Report
    COLIN KALMBACHER May 4th, 2021

    The Department of Justice must produce a memo cited by then-attorney general Bill Barr as his justification for not charging then-president Donald Trump with obstruction of justice following the release of the Mueller report, a federal judge ruled on Monday.

    After special counsel Robert Mueller released his findings in March 2019, Barr purported to “summarize the principal conclusions” in a letter to congressional leaders that condensed the nearly 400-page report into just over three pages, which did not include a single completed sentence from the report.
    […]

    Jackson’s opinion offers a detailed description of the document by way of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.

    [Snipped–details of the document and the legal wrangling that followed.]

    The upshot of the memo, the court determined, “calls into question the accuracy of Attorney General Barr’s March 24 representation to Congress.” The judge also noted that the Justice Department’s prior description of the memo “served to obscure the true purpose of the memorandum.”

    Jackson determined that her secret “in camera review of the document, which DOJ strongly resisted, raises serious questions about how the Department of Justice could make this series of representations to a court.”

    “What remains at issue today is a memorandum to the Attorney General dated March 24, 2019, that specifically addresses the subject matter of the letter transmitted to Congress,” the order notes. “It is time for the public to see that, too.”

    The Justice Department has two weeks to respond to the court’s order.

  9. says

    CNN – “Netanyahu misses deadline to build a new government. Here’s what comes next”:

    Benjamin Netanyahu’s hold on the Premiership of Israel looks a little less secure after a deadline to build a new government passed at midnight (5pET).

    Seconds before the deadline passed, a statement from the Prime Minister’s Likud party announced he had returned the mandate to form a new government back to President Reuven Rivlin.

    The onus is now on the President to decide which of Israel’s other political leaders he might entrust with the task of trying to form a governing coalition, or whether to pursue a different path to secure a breakthrough.

    The favourite to get the nod is centrist Yair Lapid, whose Yesh Atid party came second behind Netanyahu’s Likud in the March 23rd election.

    But even if Lapid is given the mandate, the key man in coalition negotiations looks set to be Naftali Bennett, a former Defense Minister and leader of the right-wing Yamina party.

    Even though his party won only seven seats in the 120-seat Knesset, Bennett finds himself in the extraordinary position of having been offered the Prime Ministership by both Netanyahu and Lapid, both of whom have offered him a rotation arrangement and said he can go first.

    Up to now, Bennett has said his preference is for a right-wing administration, but he has not ruled out a unity government straddling a wide array of parties from right to left.

    When asked by CNN how quickly such a unity government could be formed if Lapid were given the mandate, one individual close to negotiations said, “As quickly as Bennett wants.”

    Israel’s fourth election in under two years, like the previous three, was seen first and foremost as a referendum on Israel’s longest-serving leader.

    Netanyahu has been on trial since last May on bribery, fraud and breach of trust charges.

    But his campaign was not enough to prevent another deadlocked parliament, which prompted the Israeli leader to attempt to bring together some unlikely bedfellows in his efforts to stay in power.

    His hopes were dashed when the extreme-right wing Religious Zionist party refused to be part of any government which had the support of the United Arab List, an Islamist party which had itself broken new ground by making clear it could support a government led by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

    With the mandate now back in his hands, the President is set to consult again Wednesday with the parties before deciding on his next move, expected within the next few days.

    Instead of giving it to an individual, he could choose to hand the mandate over to parliament, effectively inviting any of the parliamentarians to come back to him as the head of a 61-seat majority.

    Until any new government is agreed and sworn into office, Benjamin Netanyahu remains Israel’s Prime Minister.

  10. says

    Guardian (support the Guardian if you can!) – “Bolsonaro ignored repeated warnings about Covid, ex-health minister says”:

    Jair Bolsonaro ignored repeated warnings that his anti-scientific response to Covid-19 was leading Brazil down an “extremely perilous path” and putting tens of thousands of lives at risk, the country’s former health minister has claimed.

    Giving oral evidence to a senate inquiry into Brazil’s coronavirus calamity on Tuesday, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, who led the health ministry at the start of the pandemic, said he believed the Brazilian president’s conduct had helped generate an unnecessarily large tragedy.

    Asked by one senator if Bolsonaro – whose sabotage of social distancing has been globally condemned – had understood that failing to heed international scientific consensus on Covid containment measures could cause “death on an enormous scale”, Mandetta replied: “Yes, sir.”

    “I warned him systematically, with projections even,” added the 56-year-old doctor-turned-politician who is the inquiry’s first witness.

    Not long before he was sacked in April last year, Mandetta claimed he had warned Bolsonaro 180,000 Brazilians could die by the end of the year unless restrictions were introduced by the federal government. They were not, and by the end of the year 191,000 Brazilians had died.

    Brazil’s Covid emergency has gone from bad to worse in 2021, with the official death toll more than doubling to 408,000, the second highest number after the US. Before Mandetta’s testimony on Tuesday, the inquiry’s rapporteur, Renan Calheiros, said Brazil needed answers over who was to blame for the “Dantesque situation” facing South America’s biggest country.

    The parliamentary inquiry was set up last week amid growing public anger at Bolsonaro’s handling of one of the world’s worst Covid outbreaks, his refusal to impose lockdowns and his government’s failure to acquire sufficient vaccines.

    At its inaugural sitting last week, Calheiros drew an indirect but unmistakable parallel between Bolsonaro and the “butcher of the Balkans”, Slobodan Milosevic, who ended up on trial in the Hague. “There are culprits … and they will be held responsible,” Calheiros vowed.

    “The country has the right to know who contributed to all these thousands of deaths and those people must be punished immediately and emblematically.”

    The former minister produced a three-page letter he claimed he had delivered to Bolsonaro in March 2020, which concluded: “We expressly recommend that the presidency reconsiders the stance it has adopted, in accord with health ministry guidelines, since taking steps in the opposite direction could cause the health system to collapse and extremely serious consequences for the health of the population.”

    Mandetta said he suspected Bolsonaro had been convinced that herd immunity could be achieved by allowing Covid to spread unchecked through the population “and only those who have to die [such as the elderly], will die”. Humberto Costa, a leftwing politician who is one of 11 senators on the inquiry, said: “If this is true, it represents an absolutely criminal act.”

    Bolsonaro still has the backing of about a third of Brazilians but appears rattled by the senate investigation, with hardcore supporters staging protests in several major cities last Saturday….

    More atl.

    Also in the Guardian – “Farmer moves border stone for tractor – and makes Belgium bigger.” Congrats!

  11. says

    Some podcasts:

    You’re Wrong About – “‘Political Correctness'”:

    Mike tells Sarah how liberal magazines turned a “kids these days” moral panic into a national crisis….

    (One of the hosts is also on the podcast Maintenance Phase, whose most recent episode on Ed McMahon’s diet book is also recommended.)

    QAA – “Episode 140: Undercover at the Save the Children (Again) Rally”:

    A field-recorded dive into the April 24th Los Angeles “Save the Children” QAnon rally, this time including Proud Boys as security.

    Fever Dreams – “Inside the Church of Bleach Drinkers”:

    So, remember when ex-President Donald J. Trump insanely told the United States that injecting yourself with bleach might be a cure for the coronavirus? It turns out that there’s a whole slew of wackos who have been promoting bleach drinking—disguised under the name of “miracle mineral solution”—for a range of health problems long before #45 took office and let more than 400,000 Americans die from COVID on his watch. That includes a scammy father-son duo who tried to form a church of bleach so they could claim it was their religious right to sell their chlorine dioxide snake oil. The feds didn’t buy it and now they’ve been indicted (after a brief stint on the lam in South America) in the biggest takedown yet of these dangerous bleach peddlers.Plus! Sportswriter David J. Roth walks us through how anti-vaxx stubbornness among some players is causing big-time chaos in baseball.

    Oh God, What Now? – “Extreme Makeover: Golden Wallpaper Edition”:

    As Johnson’s odious comments about “bodies piling up” collide with Carrie Antoinette’s golden wallpaper splurge and the Vengeance of the Cummings, has this barrage of sleaze finally putting the PM on the ropes? Tech expert Alexi Mostrous of Tortoise joins us to explore what Big Tech and Bigger Data have in store for our democracies. Brexit eats another of its children in the shape of Arlene Foster. And what will our film critics make of Matt Hancock’s blockbuster COVID: The Movie?…

  12. blf says

    Today, May 5th 2021, is the Grauniad’s 200th anniversary (founded in Manchester in 1821). There’s an ongoing series of articles about themselves, Guardian 200. (Please support the Grauniad if you can!)

    Today, also 200 years ago, happens to be when a well-known French dictator died.

    Speaking of (wannabe-)dictators, hair furor is in a snit. Instead of sending congratulations to the Grauniad, or permanently shutting up, today(-ish) he started his own blog with a 200 years old-seeming look-and-feel, Donald Trump returns to social media with glorified blog: “Ex-president unveils retro webpage featuring series of statements resembling blogposts […]”. (The link goes to the Grauniad’s story, not teh blogbog.) A snippet:

    Tabs on Trump’s new website allow users to like or share the posts on their own Facebook or Twitter accounts, but there is no option for them to reply.

    Visitors are also invited to “sign up for alerts”, so that Trump’s musings can be beamed directly into their inboxes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, options to “shop” and “contribute” figure prominently.

    Another still-active dictator is still at it, probably also in a snit because his pet hair furor is no longer in a position to do things for him, like shudown Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Kremlin bears down on Moscow bureau of US-funded radio station:

    […]
    In 1991, Boris Yeltsin gave Radio Liberty, the US government-funded broadcaster that had fought for decades to bypass Soviet jamming equipment, permission to open its own Moscow bureau. Now, 30 years later, the Kremlin looks close to shutting it down.

    A deadline for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty to pay the first of an estimated $2.4m (£1.7m) in fines will pass for the foreign broadcaster next week, threatening its bureau in Russia with potential police raids, blocked bank accounts, or the arrest of senior employees.

    RFE/RL says it will not pay the fines, which have accrued for its refusal to brand all its digital and video content as the product of a “foreign agent”. Roskomnadzor, the Russian mass media regulator, has initiated 520 cases against the broadcaster so far, and that number appears likely to grow.

    “They either want us to lose our physical presence in the country or neuter us, render us ineffective and not engaging with our audience,” said Jamie Fly, the broadcaster’s president. “That’s the choice they are trying to force on us.”

    RFE/RL has aggressively grown its operation in Russia, investing heavily in digital media and in building out its network of freelancers and reporting in Russia’s regions, including a recent expose on the industrial-scale theft of oil from the country’s network of pipelines. It has also provided blanket coverage of the arrest of Alexei Navalny, covering his return from Germany and subsequent street protests among his supporters to demand his release from prison.

    […]

    The broadcaster is at the intersection of two Kremlin targets: the US, whom Vladimir Putin has accused of stirring up internal dissent, and critical media outlets caught in an accelerating crackdown.

    […]

    In a major decision last week, Meduza, a leading Russian news site headquartered in Riga, was also declared a foreign agent. Unlike RFE/RL, the site quickly took precautionary measures, affixing a disclaimer to its online content and even its tweets (that content has been displayed in the Comic Sans font with several facepalm emojis).

    Poopyhead isn’t the only one use eejit quotes 😉!

    […]
    Dmitri Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said: The current mass media market is such that a disappearance of any particular mass media outlet will not matter. Nobody would even feel that disappearance.

    Other journalists critical of the government have also been targeted by police in recent weeks. Police have raided the offices and detained journalists from the student publication Doxa and also raided the offices and home of Roman Anin, a Russian investigative journalist, as part of a slander case related to his investigation into a top Putin ally’s wealth. Police have also arrested reporters who covered protests in support of Navalny, despite their being accredited journalists.

    […]

  13. blf says

    Mealworm on the menu: EU approves first insect protein (quoted in full):

    Millions of people around the world already eat insects, which are also a more environmentally friendly alternative to rearing cattle and other larger sources of protein.

    Frog legs rolled in worm flour could be the next culinary delight for European haute cuisine after the European Union gave its blessing for the first time for an insect food.

    Dried yellow mealworm can now be sold across the 27-nation bloc after a Monday decision from EU governments and a food safety assessment, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

    EU officials suggest it could be used as a protein boost for cookies, pasta or baked goods, as they try to reassure fussy eaters that millions of people around the world already eat insects. It’s also a more environmentally friendly alternative to rearing cattle and other larger sources of protein. The market for edible insects is set to reach $4.6 billion by 2027, according to one report earlier this year.[]

    Some 11 other insect foods are waiting for food safety evaluations from the EU.

    “It is up to consumers to decide whether they want to eat insects or not,” the EU said on its web page. “The use of insects as an alternate source of protein is not new.”

    As far as I know, up to now there were only a few sources of edible bugs (here in Europe): Fresh ones on your salad or in your beer, Fried ones at a few Mexican restaurants, and In certain cheeses and so on. The Mexican ones are quite tasty, the wasps in the beer less so.

      † Al Jazeera does not provide any details nor a link to this report. I presume it’s this one, The Worldwide Edible Insects Industry is Expected to Reach $4.63 Billion by 2027, which is a press release about a commercial “report” which sells for over 3500€ (link at the link).

  14. blf says

    Explosives and weaponry found at US far-right protests, documents reveal (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Federal government documents obtained by the Guardian show a wide range of explosives, flamethrowers and incendiary devices found by law enforcement agencies outside political conventions, public buildings and protests during 2020 and 2021.

    The extent of the weaponry — including timed devices deposited as part of a suspected pro-Trump bomb plot — reveals the perils and potential violence circulating through American politics in the grip of unrest linked to pandemic shutdowns, anti-racism protests and rightwing activism and insurrection that culminated in the attack on the Capitol in Washington.

    A separate New York police department intelligence document circulated in the wake of the Capitol attack defines groups including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters, QAnon adherents and the Oath Keepers as potential risks to officer safety, characterizing all of the rightwing groups as extremists in the strongest terms yet seen from any law enforcement agency.

    […]

    The [National Explosives Task Force’s] document also depicts improvised flamethrowers that it is claimed were confiscated from protesters in Portland and in Erie, Pennsylvania, last June. The document claims the Portland device — a propane-powered weed burner — was confiscated when “individuals were seen testing {the} device in the back of a truck”. The Erie device, though homemade, appears to be modeled on instructions that circulated widely online after Elon Musk’s Boring company launched their own consumer flamethrower device in 2018.

    […]

    The [NTPD’s] document, which notes the “enduring threat” posed by “by far-right, neo-Nazi and white supremacist world views”, describes the Proud Boys as a “far-right extremist, neo-fascist organization that has promoted and engaged in acts of violence throughout the US and Canada”.

    It describes QAnon as a “broad conspiracy movement with antisemitic underpinnings that falsely alleges, based on purportedly classified intelligence, that an elite cabal of pedophiles, led by Democrats, is plotting to harm children and undermine President [sic] Trump”.

    […]

    Asked about the evidence of a newfound focus on far-right groups in the documents his organization obtained, the [transparency group] Property of the People’s executive director, Ryan Shapiro, said: “Intelligence agencies have monitored violent, far-right groups for years, but overwhelmingly the results of those investigations have simply gathered dust.”

    He added: “Intelligence and law enforcement’s longstanding political policing of the left while simultaneously ignoring or even aiding literal fascists was one of the driving forces behind the January 6 attempted coup.”

  15. says

    NBC – “Trump’s Facebook ban upheld by Oversight Board”:

    Facebook was justified in banning then-President Donald Trump from its platform the day after the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, but it needs to reassess how long the ban will remain in effect, the social network’s quasi-independent Oversight Board said Wednesday.

    The decision to uphold the ban is a blow to Trump’s hopes to post again to Facebook or Instagram anytime soon, but it opens the door to him eventually returning to the platforms. Facebook must complete a review of the length of the suspension within six months, the board said.

    “Given the seriousness of the violations and the ongoing risk of violence, Facebook was justified in suspending Mr. Trump’s accounts on January 6 and extending that suspension on January 7,” the board said in its decision.

    The board said that Trump “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible” by maintaining a narrative that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.

    The oversight board said, however, that it was not appropriate for Facebook to vary from its normal penalties when it made the ban indefinite. Facebook’s normal penalties include removing posts, imposing a limited suspension or permanently disabling an account, the board said.

    “As Facebook suspended Mr. Trump’s accounts ‘indefinitely,’ the company must reassess this penalty,” the board said. “It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored.”

    The ruling pushes Facebook to more clearly define what the penalties are for world leaders who violate its rules, a topic that sparked worldwide debate even before Trump and that hangs over the company as Trump considers his own future.

    Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, said in a blog post responding to the board’s criticism that the company will “now consider the board’s decision and determine an action that is clear and proportionate.”

    “In the meantime, Mr. Trump’s accounts remain suspended,” Clegg wrote.

    Its decision focused on two Trump posts from Jan. 6, both praising people involved in the Capitol attack: one post telling the rioters, “We love you. You’re very special,” and the other calling them “great patriots,” and saying “remember this day forever.”

    “At the time of Mr. Trump’s posts, there was a clear, immediate risk of harm and his words of support for those involved in the riots legitimized their violent actions,” the board said.

    The Oversight Board’s decision is likely to become fodder for Republican lawmakers and other critics of the increasing power that Facebook and other tech companies wield over political debate and online speech.

    It also could be a far-reaching precedent for how some of the internet’s biggest platforms treat the speech of world leaders and politicians. The board rejected the idea of a separate standard for political leaders, saying: “The same rules should apply to all users of the platform; but context matters when assessing issues of causality and the probability and imminence of harm.”

    The Oversight Board’s decision helps to flesh out a much broader debate about who gets to decide the rules for social media platforms. Congressional Republicans, such as Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, have pushed the idea that federal law ought to require tech companies to be “neutral” in the content they allow, and at least one Supreme Court justice appears open to it.

    Last week, Florida’s Republican-led Legislature passed a first-in-the-nation bill to punish tech companies that “deplatform” candidates for office, with fines of up to $250,000 a day.

    In Texas, state Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation into five tech companies for their bans of Trump, a move that prompted Twitter to file a lawsuit asking a federal court to help defend Twitter’s “internal editorial policies.”…

    More at the link.

  16. says

    Guardian – “Myanmar junta bans satellite dishes in media crackdown”:

    Myanmar’s military junta has banned satellite dishes, threatening prison sentences for anyone who violates the measure, as it intensifies its crackdown on access to independent news outlets.

    The junta, which faces unanimous opposition from the public and has struggled to maintain order, has imposed increasingly tough restrictions on communication since seizing power on 1 February.

    Mobile data has been cut for most people for more than 50 days, while broadband access has also been subject to severe restrictions. Several media outlets have been banned but continue to operate in hiding, either publishing online or broadcasting for television.

    More than 80 journalists have been arrested in recent months, according to the independent Irrawaddy news outlet, which is itself facing legal action under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code. This law states that publishing information that causes fear or spreads false news is punishable by up to three years in prison.

    On Monday, Yuki Kitazumi, a Japanese journalist, was charged under the same law, according to a report by Kyodo news agency. Kitazumi became the first foreign reporter to face charges since the coup.

    Thousands of people have been arrested under the junta, including 3,677 people who have been sentenced or are in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) advocacy group. It reported that 769 people have been killed by the military.

    Despite the risks of military violence, protesters have continued to gather to oppose the coup. Teachers, students and parents marched outside schools in Mandalay on Wednesday morning, according to local media, calling for a boycott of the education system under the junta. On Tuesday night, a candlelit vigil was held in northern Kachin state.

    On Tuesday, Myanmar’s ambassador to the United Nations told the US Congress to intensify pressure on the military by imposing more targeted sanctions. Kyaw Moe Tun called for measures against the state-run Maynamar oil and gas company Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, and the state-owned bank Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank.

    “I wish to stress that Myanmar is not just witnessing another major setback to democracy, but also the crisis is threatening the regional peace and security,” he said….

  17. says

    Here’s a link to the May 5 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    Dr David Nabarro, a special envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organization, warned the “majority of the world is heading into a very, very dark period”.

    He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme:

    This pandemic is fearsome and it’s accelerating faster than ever and it’s a global phenomenon. There are a few countries that are able to demonstrate that they’ve got much lower levels of disease and they’re actually feeling that they’re recovering, but the majority of the world is heading into a very, very dark period. The reason why it’s particularly dark is that now we don’t have the full data because more and more the pandemic is spreading in places where testing is not available, so the numbers that we have we know are a major under-estimate. It’s bigger than ever, it’s fiercer than ever and it’s causing more distress than ever, this is a bad phase.

  18. says

    From today’s DN! headlines:

    India Reports New Record Death Toll as Indian G7 Delegation Self-Isolates in London

    India reported another record daily COVID-19 death toll today with close to 3,800 fatalities. The World Health Organization says India accounted for nearly half of all global COVID-19 cases reported last week and one in four deaths, as the government of Narendra Modi is coming under mounting calls to impose a national lockdown. India’s official infection and death figures are believed to be vast undercounts.

    In Britain, India’s entire delegation to the G7 summit in London is in self-isolation after two of its members tested positive for COVID-19. India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and all Indian delegates will attend meetings virtually.

    Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Reported in NY, SF as New Study Shows Surge in Crimes Against AAPI People

    In California, police arrested a suspect in the stabbing attack of two Asian American women Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco. This comes after at least four assaults on Asian Americans were reported in New York City over the weekend, including a hammer attack on two women walking in Manhattan. A new study by Cal State San Bernardino found a 164% increase in reports of anti-Asian violence in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period last year.

    Chauvin Lawyer Files Motion for New Trial as AG Seeks Harsher Sentence for Murder of George Floyd

    An attorney for former Minneapolis police officer and convicted murderer Derek Chauvin filed a motion for a new trial Tuesday, alleging prosecutorial misconduct, juror misconduct, witness intimidation and negative publicity around the case. The office of Minnesota’s Attorney General Keith Ellison said it would oppose the defense’s arguments. Last week, Ellison called for a harsher prison sentence for Chauvin because of the “particular cruelty” of his crime. Chauvin is due to be sentenced on June 25.

    Women in Puerto Rico Demand Action After Surge in Femicides

    In Puerto Rico, hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets in recent days in response to the femicides of 27-year-old Keishla Rodríguez and 35-year-old Andrea Ruiz. Ruiz’s body was found Friday, covered in burns. Her ex-partner confessed to her murder. Ruiz had sought protection against him, but the courts denied it. And Rodríguez — who was pregnant — was found lifeless floating in the San José Lagoon Saturday after being reported missing the day before. Prominent boxer Félix Verdejo Sánchez, who represented Puerto Rico at the 2012 Olympics, has been charged with Rodríguez’s murder. Feminist leaders are demanding Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi take action against skyrocketing gender violence on the island.

    Feminist leader: “We demand the state hold itself accountable and tell us where the real state of emergency is. The entire country is shocked by the recent murders of women, horror stories that resonate with so many of us, not only because we see ourselves reflected in each of them, but because we also share the same vulnerability.”

    Trump’s DOJ Threatened MIT Researchers over Report on 2019 Bolivian Election

    The Intercept is reporting the Trump Justice Department repeatedly contacted and eventually threatened to subpoena two researchers at MIT over their analysis of the 2019 Bolivian presidential election. The MIT study debunked claims of electoral fraud in Bolivia, which were used to help justify a coup against President Evo Morales.

    U.N. Condemns Crackdown on Colombian Protests as Rally Planned Against NYU Event with Ex-Pres. Uribe

    In Colombia, as massive demonstrations against poverty and inequality continue, the United Nations has condemned police and military officers for violently cracking down on protesters. At least 19 people have been killed since protests erupted last week against now-withdrawn proposed tax reforms introduced by right-wing President Iván Duque. Over 400 people have reportedly been detained and hundreds more injured.

    Meanwhile, here in New York, a demonstration is planned today to protest a New York University event featuring former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. Uribe has long been accused of human rights abuses and linked to right-wing paramilitary groups. He’s also celebrated recent violence against protesters.

    Zapatistas Set Sail to Europe to Mark 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance

    A group of Indigenous leaders and members of Mexico’s Zapatista movement have set sail on the Atlantic Ocean to Spain. The group is marking 500 years of Indigenous resistance after Spanish colonizers arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, which later became Mexico City. The Zapatistas hope to arrive in Spain in August and will go on to tour Europe and share their plans to fight the inequities triggered by capitalism.

    Mexico Apologizes for Centuries of Abuse Against Maya Indigenous Community

    Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has offered a formal apology to the Maya Indigenous community.

    President Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “We offer the most sincere apologies to the Mayan people for the terrible abuses committed by national and foreign authorities during the conquest, during the three centuries of colonial domination and two centuries of independent Mexico.”

    AMLO was joined by Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei at the ceremony, which was held in the southern state of Quintana Roo. This comes as AMLO continues to support the construction of a massive railway in southern Mexico that would cut through sacred Indigenous land and ancient sites. And in Guatemala, Indigenous land and water defenders continue to be brutalized, criminalized and displaced under Giammattei’s government.

    “New Normal” for U.S. Climate Is Hotter and Wetter, According to New NOAA Data

    The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its updated figures for U.S. climate averages, with the “new normal” one degree hotter than it was just 20 years ago. The data also shows the U.S. is much wetter in the eastern and central parts of the country and drier in the West. The rising temperatures mean that places like Fairbanks, in Alaska, are no longer classified as a sub-Arctic climate, but are now considered part of a “warm summer continental zone.”…

  19. blf says

    Some snippets from RWW:

    ● It’s May, But ‘Prophet’ Jeff Jansen Still Insists His Prophecy That the Military Would Remove Biden From Office by April Is Coming True:

    I just want to be able to come on and say, ‘Look, it’s May and what’s coming can’t be stopped.’ There’s all kinds of amazing things that are happening, and I’m talking about President Trump, I’m talking about him coming back into power, and I’m talking about the church, I’m talking about everything that God promised — back-to-back terms — everything that God has promised with this election and overturning corruption. [The Chicago Cubs did not win the 2016 World Series, Bill Gates is putting vaccines into your computer’s microchips, and the mildly deranged penguin does not like cheese!]

    ● Rick Wiles Says COVID-19 Vaccines Are a Plot to Carry Out Global Genocide:

    Relying entirely on an article from an obscure conspiracy theory website in India that claimed the next wave of COVID-19 will kill up to 70 percent of those who have been vaccinated, Wiles bellowed that he intends to survive this genocide by refusing to get vaccinated while noting that the upside of this mass death campaign will be that a lot of stupid people will be killed off. [And the Cubs didn’t win the World Series, Microchips are putting Bill Gates clones into vaccines, and the mildly deranged penguin is fictional!]

    ● Mario Murillo Says God Is Calling Right-Wing Christians to Mobilize Politically and Terrify National Democrat Leaders (my added emboldening):

    Murillo said that God is calling conservative Christians to engage in political and moral action and to organize, educate ourselves on how to terrify national Democrat leaders, how to win local elections, and train our people to know why they believe what they believe and to believe it with conviction[: The real Cubs didn’t win because they were all vaccine clones made by an artificial penguin built by Bill Gates under the control of a mildly deranged cheese!]

    Meanwhile, in The Onion, reality is restored, Ted Cruz Decries Voting Rights Bill As Shameless Power Grab By American People To Control Country:

    Calling the proposed law “dangerous” and “unprecedented”, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) decried a new voting rights bill Thursday as a shameless power grab by the American people to control the country. “The proposed legislation is nothing more than a brazen attempt by the calculating American people to seize congress by electing representatives,” said Cruz, who warned that the nation’s 328 million residents “would stop at nothing” to carry out their sinister ploy. “[…] Clearly, the American people are way out of touch with the GOP.” At press time, Cruz had raised concerns the bill would lead to a wave of non-senators casting ballots[, the Cubs winning a World Series, vaccines working safely (and doing so without microchips), and the mildly deranged penguin confusing Bill Gates for cheese].

    She quickly realised her mistake and spat out the unchewed bits. No microchips were harmed in this (not-quite-)cheese tasting.

  20. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Nepal’s decision to allow people to continue to climb its Himalayan peaks as a vicious Covid-19 wave sweeps the country was dealt a further blow after 19 more climbers tested positive for the virus.

    Last month it was reported that the pandemic had reached Everest base camp and though officials later denied it, climbers have reported a wave of infections that were being covered up.

    Now it has emerged that 19 people, both foreign climbers and sherpas, at the base camp of Dhaulagiri, the world’s seventh highest mountain and part of the same range as Everest, have tested positive….

    Covid-19 infections continue to spread fast across the Americas as a result of relaxed prevention measures and intensive care units are filling up with younger people, Reuters quotes the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Carissa Etienne as saying.

    In Brazil, mortality rates have doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40s and tripled for those in their 50s since December, she said.

    Hospitalisation rates among those under 39 years have increased by more than 70% in Chile and in some areas of the United States more people in their 20s are now being hospitalised for Covid-19 than people in their 70s.

  21. says

    blf @14, ha! I liked the addition of a cat recycling The Guardian as a liner for the litter box … along with a reminder to recycle.

    SC @15, so it looks like planet earth will be spared Facebook and Instagram posts from Hair Furor for at least another six months. That’s good. I do hope Facebook suspends Trump’s account indefinitely. The move by Florida legislators to punish social media platforms that ban the accounts of politicians is ridiculous.

    Bits and pieces of other news:

    * Punchbowl News reported this morning that the U.S. House’s top two Republican leaders — Reps. Kevin McCarthy and Steve Scalise — are both “quietly working behind the scenes” to oust House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney and replace her with New York Rep. Elise Stefanik. [No so quietly I’d say.]

    * On a related note, Donald Trump reportedly spoke to Stefanik yesterday, and this morning offered his “complete and total endorsement” for her bid to become the new #3 in the House Republican leadership. [Anything to get back at Liz Cheney for spotlighting Trump’s lies.]

    * The former president also issued a new written statement this morning, lashing out at Cheney, and blaming former Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his 2020 defeat. [Oh, FFS.]

    * Politico reported this morning that the American Greatness Fund, a non-profit advocacy group aligned with Trump’s operation, is creating something called the Election Integrity Alliance, which it says will be “focused on ending election fraud and strengthening election safeguards by providing information, resources, endorsements of allies’ efforts, and solutions to secure free and fair elections.” As for what that means in practical terms, I haven’t the foggiest idea.

    * During a Fox News interview yesterday, Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) was asked whether the 2020 presidential election was “stolen.” The Wyoming Republican — the #3 Republican in the Senate leadership — wouldn’t answer the question directly.

    * The Ohio Republican Party’s state central committee is scheduled to meet this week to discuss whether to censure Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) for his vote to impeach Donald Trump in January.

    * Though national Republicans tend to see Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) as vulnerable in 2022, for now, the incumbent senator has only one rival: Jim Lamon, a power company executive and Trump donor, kicked off his statewide candidacy this week.

    Link

  22. says

    DeSantis sparks questions with Florida’s upcoming special election

    DeSantis’ plan will leave voters in Florida’s 20th without a representative until January. If that seems like a long time, it’s not your imagination.

    It was just four weeks ago when the late Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) died at the age of 84. There’s already a crowded field of candidates eager to succeed the longtime Miami-area congressman, in a heavily Democratic district.

    […] The U.S. House seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Alcee Hastings will be filled through a special election, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday. Speaking at a news conference Tuesday, DeSantis said the primary for the District 20 seat will be held on Nov. 2, with the general election on Jan. 11, 2022.

    […] a closer look raises some questions about the calendar.

    Right off the bat, note that the Republican governor waited nearly a full month before scheduling the special election. Then he announced a schedule that will leave the voters in Florida’s 20th district — most of whom are Black — without a representative until January.

    […] As Daily Kos’ David Nir explained, thanks to DeSantis’ plan, Hastings’ seat “will remain without representation for 280 days. That’s almost twice as long as the gap that proceeded the state’s two most recent special elections: In 2014, specials were held in the 13th District just 144 days after Rep. Bill Young died and in the 19th District just 148 days after Rep. Trey Radel resigned. Both were Republicans.”

    [snipped other examples of Republicans seats being filled in a timely manner.]

    So why would DeSantis adopt a different kind of schedule and leave this Democratic district without a representative longer than necessary?

    […] as David Nir’s report added, “Local election officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties initially proposed the dates that DeSantis wound up choosing, including a primary on Nov. 2. Soon after, however, they suggested the primary take place on Sept. 14 and the general on Nov. 9, with one official saying, ‘People would like it to be earlier.'”

    Evidently, the governor is not among those people.

  23. says

    Follow-up to SC @15.

    […] Trump responded to the news in predictably hysterical fashion, saying in a statement that the social-media giant “must pay a political price” for enforcing the company’s rules in a way he doesn’t like. He added, “Free Speech has been taken away from the President of the United States because the Radical Left are afraid of the truth.”

    First, Trump isn’t president. Second, the “radical left” is singular. And third, the former president’s free speech rights remain intact, whether he runs afoul of social-media companies’ terms of service or not.

    Link

  24. blf says

    Lynna@23 notes “so it looks like planet earth will be spared Facebook and Instagram posts from Hair Furor for at least another six months.”

    Putting aside the dubiousness of factsborked’s review board, not necessarily… SC@15 quotes, “Facebook must complete a review of the length of the suspension within six months, the board said.” Said review could be completed within the hour and result in hair furor being reinstated.

    The Grauniad on the review board:

    ● Facebook has beefed up its ‘oversight board’, but any new powers are illusory (last month, April 2021).

    ● Facebook ruling on Trump renews criticism of oversight board. Some snippets (Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    “Instead of addressing the core problems in its platform, {Facebook} exploited this fragile moment in our society in order to sell us the fiction of this oversight group,” said Angelo Carusone, president and CEO of Media Matters for America. “Don’t buy it. Now, they’re kicking the can down the road again.”

    The scale of Trump’s coronavirus misinformation makes the decision to remove him particularly important at this moment in the pandemic, said Jessica J González, the co-chief executive officer of the non-profit anti-hate speech organization Free Press.

    “Given Trump’s history of spreading pandemic disinformation, it’s particularly crucial to deny him a megaphone at a time when we’re still struggling to contain the virus and increase vaccinations.”

    Activists have pointed out other platforms, including Twitter and Snapchat, banned the former president outright without taking such pains to explain themselves. González said that the oversight board’s decision announced on Wednesday does not address many of the issues activists have brought up regarding hate speech and misinformation on Facebook.

    “Mark Zuckerberg designed the oversight board to deflect attention from the structural rot at the heart of Facebook’s hate-and-lie-for-profit business model,” she said. “Facebook’s content moderation efforts are dysfunctional by design. The tech giant earns revenues by engaging people in hate.”

  25. says

    Why Trump’s new tech ‘platform’ is so hilariously underwhelming

    In March, Jason Miller said Trump’s new tech platform would “completely redefine the game.” Two months later, that boast is kind of hilarious.

    As Donald Trump settled into his semi-retirement phase, there was all kinds of speculation about what he might do next. Would he start a television network? Maybe form a new political party?

    Much of the speculation focused on social media — the former president had been forced from his beloved Twitter — and Trump’s interest in creating a rival platform of his own. In fact, the Associated Press reported in March that the Republican was planning to unveil his own social-media platform “in two or three months.”

    […] It was against this backdrop that Fox News ran this report yesterday on Team Trump’s new tech rollout.

    Former President Trump launched a communications platform on Tuesday, which will serve as “a place to speak freely and safely,” and will eventually give him the ability to communicate directly with his followers, after months of being banned from sites like Twitter and Facebook. The platform, “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” appears on http://www.DonaldJTrump.com/desk.

    The same report added that the former president’s project appears to be powered by Campaign Nucleus — the “digital ecosystem made for efficiently managing political campaigns and organizations,” created by Brad Parscale, Trump’s former campaign manager.

    For now, it’s not clear how much Trump and his team paid for this “communications platform,” though I’m awfully curious to find out just how big an investment this was — because the project is hilariously underwhelming.

    In fact, to describe this as a “communications platform” is itself generous to the point of comedy. What Team Trump has created is, for all intents and purposes, a rudimentary blog for the former president.

    At issue is a straightforward website in which Trump can publish some thoughts, and then people can share those thoughts with others through social media. This technology and this format has existed for many years. In fact, it’s not dissimilar to the website you’re reading right now.

    The principal difference is, Trump’s blog doesn’t appear to link to any other websites — suggesting the former president has a new blog, but it’s not an especially good one.

    […] after the hype about Trump getting ready to “completely redefine the game,” it seemed that the former president would unveil something more impressive than a website the teenager who lives on your block could’ve thrown together in an afternoon.

  26. blf says

    Follow-up to @15, @23, and @26, Facebook fudge potentially lets Trump live to lie another day:

    Analysis: Trump will try to have it both ways over the verdict — decrying censorship but also eyeing an eventual return

    It was not so much “Release the Kraken!” as “please tell the Kraken to pace around the room a few more times while we think about it”.

    Facebook’s oversight board ruled that Donald Trump should remain banned from the platform for incendiary posts on the day of the deadly insurrection at the US Capitol. But it also told the company that its “vague, standardless penalty” should be reviewed within six months.

    The former president has made a career of portraying defeats as victories, bankruptcies as financial successes, the 2020 election as an epic win that was stolen. Facebook’s fudge will again allow him to have it both ways.

    In the short term, the continued ban will feed the rightwing narrative of “cancel culture” and the perception that both mainstream media and social media censor conservative voices. Trump is the master of the politics of grievance and victimhood, constantly telling his supporters that “they” are taking away “your voice”.

    [… I]n the longer term, the quasi-independent board’s quasi-ruling leaves open the door for Trump to return to Facebook in plenty of time for the 2024 presidential election, whether as candidate or kingmaker.

    […]

    But Facebook was arguably a more important engine of his election campaigns [than Twitter]. It was a tool to raise money, mobilise his supporters and spread disinformation about his opponents. According to the Axios website, Trump spent about $160m on Facebook ads in 2020, compared with Joe Biden’s $117m.

    […]

    Columnist Thomas Friedman told CNN this week: “There’s a sense out there that everything’s OK. Everything is not OK. Our democracy today is as threatened as at any time.”

    Trump’s national relevance has ebbed away with shocking speed since he left office on 20 January. The Facebook ruling, while prolonging that trend, will also help maintain the comforting illusion that America has achieved herd immunity against his Big Lie. Unfortunately, you cannot kill an idea, even an untrue one; you have to learn to live with it.

  27. says

    blf @26, good points. Thanks for the additional info. Also, I’ll note that Trump’s new blog encourages others to share his sludge on social media platforms.

    In other news: After Cheney Supported A Jan. 6 Commission, McCarthy Had A Personal Reason To Want Her Ousted

    House Republican leadership turned against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) very quickly. Muffled grumbles of discontent grew into leaked hot mic denunciations and public endorsements of possible replacements.

    While the tension has been palpable for months — remember that painfully awkward split on whether former President Trump should participate in CPAC — the antagonism has been thrumming at a higher volume since the House GOP retreat in Florida last month.

    While there, Cheney broke with GOP leadership publicly on a number of issues orbiting the central schism: that Cheney wants to hold Trump and his allies responsible for the big election lie and the violence it wrought. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and nearly all of the rest of the congressional GOP caucus have long-since dropped any pretense of wanting to hold Trump accountable. Quite the opposite: they think they need Trump to flip at least the House in 2022 and to shore up their own political futures.

    […] Cheney contradicted McCarthy the necessary scope of a 9/11-style commission to investigate January 6 and the events that led to it.

    “What happened on January 6 is unprecedented in our history, and I think that it’s very important that the commission be able to focus on that,” she told reporters from the Florida retreat.

    […] McCarthy, like the rest of GOP leadership, has insisted that if the probe entails more than the security breakdown on January 6 itself […] they also want to investigate the Black Lives Matter protests last summer and “antifa” generally.

    It mostly seems like an attempt to both-sides their participation in the election lie, and to insert a poison pill into the counter-proposal for Democrats, who are loath to concede that the overwhelmingly peaceful protests are on par with the Capitol attack.

    For McCarthy, revisiting that time could hamper his party’s ability to win back the majority and make him Speaker of the House. But there’s an additional, personal, layer to the events of January 6 for him.

    He reached out to Trump while the violence was unfolding to ask him to call off his mob. It’s an easy event to forget about, in part because McCarthy has been studiously avoiding talking about it. […] “My conversations with the President are my conversations with the President.”

    Other sources have provided some insight. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) briefly electrified Trump’s second impeachment trial when she shared her account of the call. She said that when McCarthy reached Trump and told him of the attack, Trump insisted that antifa was behind it. When McCarthy contradicted him, Trump shrugged — “‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,’” he said, per Herrera Beutler’s statement.

    Other reporting has surfaced accounts that the conversation was explosive and expletive-laden.

    Trump did not put out his milquetoast statement telling the rioters to go home — and that he loves them — until hours after the call with McCarthy.

    If there ever is a January 6 commission whose members have subpoena power, it seems all but certain that McCarthy will be asked to finally answer some questions about that conversation.

    […] There are a lot of reasons McCarthy wants to get rid of Cheney, and the prevailing one is that standing by Trump and absolving him of blame is simply the litmus test to be a Republican right now. […]

    But he also has possibly the greatest insight into what Trump was doing and saying that day, while his supporters mobbed the Capitol and called for his Vice President’s murder. In this day and age, that’s very dangerous information for a Republican to have.

  28. says

    Family ripped apart at border by prior admin reunites after over three years of separation

    Sandra Ortíz and her son Bryan Chávez have hugged for the first time in more than three years. Separated at the southern border by the prior administration in 2017, the family reunited at the San Ysidro, California, port of entry on Tuesday. They’re the first of four families expected to be reunited this week, following the Biden administration announcing on Monday that it would be returning parents deported by the prior administration to the U.S. on humanitarian parole.

    “Ortíz, 48, from central Mexico, had packed her bag days earlier: three outfits, a pair of shoes and the birth certificate of her son, whom she hadn’t seen since they were separated at the border in 2017, when he was 15,” The Washington Post reported. “He’s now almost 19.”

    The previous administration had separated the family in October 2017. It had already been stealing children from their parents at the southern border for several months but would not officially announce the inhumane “zero tolerance” policy until the following May. Like many other parents, Ortíz was kept in the dark by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials about the whereabouts of her child. And like many other parents, Ortíz was told her child would be put up for adoption.

    Ortíz was then told she would be deported after she failed her asylum interview. While it’s unclear the circumstances behind why she failed it, the previous administration took steps to undermine the interviews of other asylum-seekers. Then Ortíz found out she would be deported without her son. When she finally got to talk to him over the phone, it was after she’d been deported. “I assumed, ‘This is it. I’ll never see him again,’” she told the Post.

    On Tuesday, they had a joyous and tearful reunion, but with some sorrow. Ortíz secured necessary travel paperwork, airline tickets, and other assistance from Al Otro Lado, which has done important advocacy for asylum-seekers and their families. But during a video chat shortly before leaving for the U.S. Ortíz told the Post she noticed something about her son. First, he looked grown-up. “’He looks like a man,’ she thought,” the report said. “And then she thought: ‘He looks sad. He’s not the same son I had. This whole thing has changed him.’” [video is available at the link]

    […] Three more families are expected to be reunited this week, including at least one family that has also been separated for three years. “In total, more than 1,000 families are expected to be reunited,” the Post reported. “Being together again will be beautiful,” Ortíz continued in the report. “But it might not be easy.” […]

  29. says

    President Biden plans to address the nation Wednesday on the implementation of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in March that included $1,400-per-person stimulus payments, aid to state and local governments, and other measures. Earlier in the day, he visited a Mexican restaurant that is benefiting from a relief program that was part of the package. […]

    Biden on Wednesday made an unadvertised trip to a Mexican restaurant in Washington to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and highlight a program to aid restaurants that was part of his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package and has become popular among both parties.

    The White House said Taqueria Las Gemelas in Northeast Washington is among the beneficiaries of funding from the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which provides aid to restaurants and bars that took a financial hit from the pandemic. In a statement, the White House said the restaurant went from 55 to seven employees during the pandemic.

    “The restaurant industry was so badly hurt nationwide, and that’s why we put this … together,” Biden said of the fund.
    […]

    The restaurant program, which was officially launched this week, has been touted by congressional Democrats as well as some Republicans […] [Republicans ALL voted against the relief package.]

    According to statistics released by the White House, 186,200 restaurants, bars and other eligible businesses in all 50 states, Washington and five U.S. territories applied for relief in the program’s first two days.

    Several Republican lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), promoted the government website with information on applications. [Hypocrite]

    During his stop at the restaurant, Biden greeted several patrons before departing with tacos and enchiladas.

    Link

    So much better than watching Trump eat a Trump Tower “taco bowl.”

  30. blf says

    Lynna@27 quotes, “Trump’s blog doesn’t appear to link to any other websites — suggesting the former president has a new blog, but it’s not an especially good one.”

    No(-ish): Each post (bellowing) does have links (for re-posting on) factsborked and twittering (whether or not either works I don’t know, but they look plausible), and what appears to be a Like button (albeit no count of likes?).

    On the other hand, there does not seem to be any links within the bellowings, nor anything like a sidebar with links (such as here at FtB). There are links, most intra-site, and the few which aren’t are to deeply problematic other sites (e.g., winred and 45office).

    Amusingly, all the bellowings are titled Donald J Trump. (The earliest is dated March 24th (the date seems genuine?).) And the Privacy Policy is very long… and I presume contains numerous traps for the unwary. (One I noted — mostly because there’s a long complicated rationale — is they do not obey “Do Not Track” signals. (I use the EFF’s Privacy Badger with Firefox as one of multiple precautions.)) The T&C is also very long (I didn’t try to work my way through that morass).

    As noted previously, there is no reply / comment facility, and the entire design seems inspired by 1980’s dial-up bulletin boards. It’s rather an eyesore, even ignoring the hair furor photo(s?).

  31. blf says

    Lynna@31, But but but… that’ll lead to “taco trucks on every corner!”

  32. says

    Good Riddance, Donald Trump?

    NY Times link

    It never occurred to me that a Facebook-appointed panel could avoid a clear decision about Donald Trump’s heinous online behavior. But that is what it’s done.

    […] the question of how to treat speech on social media platforms is a major and perhaps impossible one to wrangle with — especially when it comes to important political figures […]Which is why the external board decided to punt the fetid Trump situation back to the Facebook leadership.

    It’s kind of perfect, actually, since it forces everyone’s hand — from the Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to our limp legislators in Congress.

    In general, I have considered the case of Mr. Trump to be much less complex than people seem to think. And it has been made to appear highly complicated by big tech companies like Facebook because they want to exhaust us all in a noisy and intractable debate.

    Mr. Trump should be seen as an outlier — a lone, longtime rule breaker who was coddled and protected on social media platforms until he wandered into seditious territory. He’s an unrepentant gamer of Facebook’s badly enforced rules who will never change. He got away with it for years and spread myriad self-serving lies far and wide.

    In other words, Trump broke Facebook’s rules. And he did so repeatedly. He should have been kicked off the platform much earlier, just like any other rule-breaker. He wasn’t. He wasn’t held to account.

    So why should Mr. Trump stop now?

    One way to answer that would be to ask why so many Republicans believe the Big Lie that President Biden was not elected fairly. Or why do so many of the same people resist Covid-19 vaccinations?

    It’s all because of the inexhaustible Trump digital army, which is both organized and scattered, and has been enabled by social media companies.

    […] Mr. Trump (and his acolytes) spent years crossing lines in the digital sand. […]

    The main problem is that Facebook has offloaded important decisions, like that of Mr. Trump’s fate on the platform, to its Oversight Board, an unwieldy and ultimately ineffective body that makes the United Nations look decisive. The board is apparently independent — but it’s a system essentially created by Facebook. It’s paid for by Facebook, and its members are picked by Facebook. It’s a glorified corporate advisory board of just 20 people who have made a key decision for the rest of us. And it appears as if the board members realized that this decision was not theirs to make.

    […] This lazy abrogation of responsibility by the Facebook leadership is par for the course for the most hopelessly compromised company in tech, which has bungled controversies for years.

    At least, in his various and sundry heinous behaviors, Mr. Trump has been explicit […]

    In moving the key decision over Mr. Trump out of its own hands (where it belonged), the company has passed along the hottest of potatoes and said good riddance to responsibility. Facebook is pretending that its hands are tied, even though Facebook executives were the ones who tied them.

    I can’t get the phrase “arbiter of truth” out of my head.

    “I just believe strongly that Facebook shouldn’t be the arbiter of truth of everything that people say online,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in an interview with Fox News in mid-2020. “Private companies probably shouldn’t be, especially these platform companies, shouldn’t be in the position of doing that.”

    Mr. Zuckerberg was trying to wrangle out of making the hard decision about Mr. Trump that the head of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, eventually made when he permanently banned the president from that service. The Twitter ban came at the bitter end, in the wake of the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6; it was too little, too late. But Mr. Dorsey did it — and he has stuck to it.

    Not Mr. Zuckerberg.

    Here are some questions I would ask the Facebook chief if given the chance: Why build a platform that requires an arbiter of truth if you don’t want to be one? […]

    Remember, Mr. Zuckerberg said that “arbiter of truth” gem almost a year ago, in yet another attempt to ingratiate his company with the then-ruling Trump administration. And we now know how that dereliction of duty turned out. A smash and a grab for democracy, for which the instigator-in-chief will never be punished.

    For now, though, we are saved by a decision of a body that cannot keep doing this over and over, with no fail-safe for the next time, when a smarter, more savvy version of Mr. Trump emerges and makes no unforced errors.

    It also shines a spotlight on the actual problem: Facebook has grown too powerful and the only fix is to get government legislators to come up with a way to allow more competition and to take impossible decisions out of the hands of too few people.

    Until then, it’ll be an endless and exhausting game of hot potato, in which no one wins.

    Good riddance to Trump? Hardly.

  33. says

    blf @34, yes. And I really want a taco truck on my corner!

    In other news, Four months after the Capitol riot, Josh Hawley has no regrets

    In January, Pat Toomey said senators like Josh Hawley “have a lot of soul searching to do.” Alas, that introspection never happened.

    It’s fair to say Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has had an eventful 2021, starting with the senator’s anti-election efforts that turned him, at least temporarily, into a political “pariah” on Capitol Hill.

    […]. Hawley was denounced by former allies; prominent businesses distanced themselves from the Republican; several independent media outlets called on the Missouri senator to resign in disgrace; and several of his Senate colleagues filed an ethics complaint against him.

    Many Republicans, in particular, marveled in late December at Hawley’s efforts to undermine the results of an American election. Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, concluded, “The ambitions of this knowledgeable, talented young man are now a threat to the republic.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) added, in reference to Hawley, “Adults don’t point a loaded gun at the heart of legitimate self-government.”

    A week later, in the wake of the insurrectionist riot at the Capitol, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) appeared on NBC News’ “Meet the Press” and was asked about colleagues such as Hawley and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), whose recklessness contributed to the unrest. “They’re going to have a lot of soul searching to do,” the Pennsylvania Republican said in the interview. “And the problem is they were complicit in the Big Lie…. That’s going to haunt them for a very long time.”

    […] But four months after the insurrectionist violence, Hawley clearly regrets nothing.

    [Hawley], who led the effort in the Senate to contest Biden’s election victory, said he does not regret raising his fist to a pro-Trump mob gathered outside the Capitol on Jan. 6 ahead of the violent insurrection. “I waved to them, gave them the thumbs up, pumped my fist to them and thanked them for being there, and they had every right to do that,” Hawley said during an interview Tuesday with Washington Post Live.

    In the same interview, the Missouri Republican also continued to stand by his decision to vote against certifying 2020 election results he didn’t like, telling the Post he was merely raising “concerns about election integrity.”

    […] there’s no great mystery behind his indifference: Hawley is enjoying some of the most robust fundraising of his career; he was still able to publish a book; he maintains a high media profile […]

    As far as Hawley is concerned, there’s no point in dwelling on his anti-election efforts, because from his perspective, there were no adverse consequences for his actions. All the senator sees is rewards for misconduct. […]

  34. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Alberta drops vaccine age to 12 as Covid cases surge

    Alberta will become the first Canadian province to offer Covid vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over from 10 May, premier Jason Kenney has said, a day after he introduced tighter measures to combat a third pandemic wave.

    Alberta, home to Canada’s oil patch, has the highest rate per capita of Covid-19 in the country, with nearly 24,000 active cases and 150 people in intensive care, Reuters reports.

    “We must act to bend the curve down one last time,” United Conservative Party premier Kenney told a news conference, adding based on current trends Alberta’s health care system will be overwhelmed within a month.

    Under the new curbs, schools will be confined to online learning for two weeks, while other measures including restaurant patios being closed will last for three weeks.

    On Tuesday, Alberta recorded 1,743 new daily cases, exploding from less than 200 in early February.

  35. says

    LMAOOOOO WHAT

    The latest conspiracy theory being chased by the sketchy ‘audit’ of Arizona’s 2020 election is that fraudulent ballots were supposedly smuggled in from China and therefore have bamboo in the paper.

    THEY ARE CHECKING FOR BAMBOO IN THE BALLOTS….

    This is after we learned that the ‘auditors’ are also using UV lights to check for secret watermarks that President Trump supposedly put on ballots as a trap for Democrats.”

    Video atl.

  36. blf says

    France grants citizenship to over 2,000 foreign workers for Covid-19 response:

    France has granted citizenship to over 2,000 foreign-born frontline workers to reward them for their services to the nation during the coronavirus pandemic […]

    Marlene Schiappa, junior interior minister in charge of citizenship, said that 2,009 people, including 665 minors, had been fast-tracked for naturalisation for “showing their attachment to the nation”.

    […]

    Those involved include health workers, security guards, checkout workers, garbage collectors, home-care providers and nannies.

    Over 8,000 people have applied for citizenship under the scheme, Schiappa’s office said, adding that all requests were being given “the greatest consideration”.

    […]

  37. blf says

    A fairly short France24 interview with Alice Doyard, who produced the Grauniad’s Oscar-winning Colette (video) short documentary, ‘Colette’ revisits World War II trauma and wins Academy Award for best documentary short (video): “In just 24 minutes, the charismatic and courageous “Colette” reminds us just how close, and how personal, Second World War history can be. This concise, powerful film saw producer Alice Doyard and director Anthony Giacchino pick up this year’s Academy Award for best documentary short. Alice tells us more about working with former resistant Colette to prepare a trip to the Nazi camp where her brother died in 1945.”

  38. says

    Politico oped – “Enough warnings: Europe must act on Russian killings”:

    …The warning was given a long time ago, with the crimes of the regime in Chechnya, Georgia, Ukraine and Syria. Those, even if of lesser intensity, committed on European soil, are only an extension of them. They are the consequence of our inaction and loss of awareness of what they mean. Crimes, including war crimes that are liable to the International Criminal Court, must be designated as such. They cannot be considered as business as usual.

  39. blf says

    SC@43, As an aside, here’s the Gruaniad’s article about the same CDC report, US birth rate sees biggest fall for nearly 50 years.

    And from yesterday, Why do Americans die earlier than Europeans?:

    The ‘mortality penalty’ that the US pays every year is equivalent to the number of Americans who died of Covid in 2020

    A 30-year-old American is three times more likely to die at that age than his or her European peers. In fact, Americans do worse at just about every age. To make matters more grim, the American disadvantage is growing over time.

    In 2017, for example, higher American mortality translated into roughly 401,000 excess deaths — deaths that would not have occurred if the US had Europe’s lower age-specific death rates. Pre-pandemic, that 401,000 is about 12% of all American deaths. The percentage is even higher below age 85, where one in four Americans die simply because they do not live in Europe.

    […]

    There have been many efforts to account for the US mortality disadvantage. There is no single answer, but three factors stand out. First, death rates from drug overdose are much higher in the US than in Europe and have risen sharply in the 21st century. Second is the rapid rise in the proportion of American adults who are obese. In 2016, 40% of American adults were obese, a larger proportion than in Europe. Higher levels of obesity in the US may account for 55% of its shortfall in life expectancy relative to other rich countries. Third, the US stands out among wealthy countries for not offering universal healthcare insurance. One analysis suggests that the absence of universal healthcare resulted in 45,000 excess deaths at ages 18–64 in 2005. That number represents about a quarter of excess deaths in that age range.

    When I moved to “Europe” last millennium, one easily noticeable difference was there were less obese people, and those who were obese looked (in general) to be less obese, than in the States. Health care is also quite different. No idea about illicit or “recreational” drugs, and albeit there is considerable alcohol consumption, it seems to be a bit more restrained / responsible (albeit British (especially?) pubs near closing time challenge that assertion!).

    […]
    The systemic racism present in US society generates inequalities in resources and power, which in turn have a major impact “downstream” on the health of people of color. Healthcare inequalities and provider bias are importantly associated with infant and maternal mortality. For example, many physicians (usually white and male) have been shown to take the health concerns of Black and Latinx people less seriously during pregnancy and childbirth, resulting in poorer health outcomes for both mothers and their children. Black infants have significantly better outcomes when treated by Black doctors.

    The US also has exceptionally high income inequality, superimposed on its yawning racial divide. And social policy in the US is less likely to correct inequality than elsewhere. One study concluded that US life expectancy would be three to four years longer if the country had the social policy generosity of other OECD countries. A factor in the social policy shortcomings in the US, including in providing health insurance, is the sense on the part of the white majority that more generous policies would disproportionately benefit African Americans.

    All of this suggests that our shortcomings are not simply a product of what happens in a sector called “medicine and public health”. Rather, these shortcomings are deeply embedded in enduring features of American society. […]

  40. says

    US Trade Rep Katherine Tai:

    These extraordinary times and circumstances of call for extraordinary measures.

    The US supports the waiver of IP protections on COVID-19 vaccines to help end the pandemic and we’ll actively participate in @WTO negotiations to make that happen.

    Statement atl.

  41. blf says

    Native American tribe gives surplus vaccines to First Nations relatives in Canada:

    […]
    The Blackfeet tribe in northern Montana has provided about 1,000 surplus vaccines to its First Nations relatives and others in Canada, in an illustration of the disparity in speed at which the US and its norther [sic] neighbor are distributing doses. While more than 30% of adults in the US are fully vaccinated, in Canada that figure is about 3%.

    Ah good! A classic Grauniadian typo on its 200th anniversary. “Norther” is apparently slang (primary Texas?) for a cold wind from the north.

    […]
    More than 95% of the Blackfeet reservation’s roughly 10,000 residents who are eligible for the vaccine are fully immunized, after the state prioritized Native American communities — among the most vulnerable US populations — in the early stages of its vaccination campaign.

    The tribe received vaccine allotments both from the Montana health department and the federal Indian Health Service, leaving some doses unused. With an expiration date fast approaching, it turned to other nations in the Blackfoot Confederacy, which includes the Blackfeet and three tribes in southern Alberta that share a language and culture.

    “The idea was to get to our brothers and sisters that live in Canada,” said Robert DesRosier, emergency services manager for the Blackfeet tribe. “And then the question came up — what if a nontribal member wants a vaccine? Well, this is about saving lives. We’re not going to turn anybody away.”

    […]

    As news of the effort spread in Canada, first by word of mouth, then through social platforms and media reports, people traveled from farther away. Some drove five hours from the city of Edmonton.

    […]

  42. tomh says

    NYT:
    Pfizer Reaps Hundreds of Millions in Profits From Covid Vaccine
    Rebecca Robbins and Peter Goodman
    May 5, 2021

    Last year, racing to develop a vaccine in record time, Pfizer made a big decision: Unlike several rival manufacturers, which vowed to forgo profits on their shots during the Covid-19 pandemic, Pfizer planned to profit on its vaccine.

    On Tuesday, the company announced just how much money the shot is generating.

    The vaccine brought in $3.5 billion in revenue in the first three months of this year, nearly a quarter of its total revenue, Pfizer reported. The vaccine was, far and away, Pfizer’s biggest source of revenue.

    The company did not disclose the profits it derived from the vaccine, but it reiterated its previous prediction that its profit margins on the vaccine would be in the high 20 percent range. That would translate into roughly $900 million in pretax vaccine profits in the first quarter….

    But the company’s vaccine is disproportionately reaching the world’s rich — an outcome, so far at least, at odds with its chief executive’s pledge to ensure that poorer countries “have the same access as the rest of the world” to a vaccine that is highly effective at preventing Covid-19.

    As of mid-April, wealthy countries had secured more than 87 percent of the more than 700 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines dispensed worldwide, while poor countries had received only 0.2 percent, according to the World Health Organization. In wealthy countries, roughly one in four people has received a vaccine. In poor countries, the figure is one in 500.
    […]

    The company pledged to contribute up to 40 million doses to Covax, a multilateral partnership aimed at supplying vaccines to poor countries. That represents less than 2 percent of the 2.5 billion doses that Pfizer and its development partner, BioNTech, aim to produce this year….

    The doses that Pfizer pledged to Covax are “a drop in the ocean,” said Clare Wenham, a health policy expert at the London School of Economics.

    The World Health Organization figures make clear that Pfizer has provided minimal help to the world’s poorest countries.

  43. blf says

    US judge throws out pandemic-related moratorium on evictions:

    […]
    US District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington DC, said on Wednesday the “plain language” of a federal law called the Public Health Service Act, which governs the response to the spread of communicable diseases such as COVID-19, blocked the CDC’s moratorium.

    The National Association of Realtors welcomed the judge’s decision, saying a better solution would be to help tenants pay rent, taxes and utility bills.

    With rental assistance secured, the economy strengthening and unemployment rates falling, there is no need to continue a blanket, nationwide eviction ban, the group said.

    […]

    Landlords and real estate trade groups that challenged the moratorium in court said the CDC lacked the power to impose it, and unlawfully took away their right to deal with delinquent tenants.

    Friedrich, a Trump appointee, said there was “no doubt” Congress intended to empower the CDC to combat COVID-19 through a range of measures, such as quarantines, but not a moratorium.

    […]

    According to the White House, one in five renters had fallen behind on rent as of January, while UDS[? US Department of Housing and Urban Development(?)] agencies have said between 4 million and 8.8 million adults are behind on their rent.

    […]

  44. says

    Washington Post:

    A soldier in the Wisconsin National Guard was charged Monday in connection with the Capitol riot Jan. 6, becoming the fourth service member linked to the violent attempt to thwart the certification of Joe Biden’s election as president.

    Wall Street Journal:

    Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday she is neither predicting nor recommending that the Federal Reserve raise interest rates as a result of President Biden’s spending plans, walking back her comments earlier in the day that rates might need to rise to keep the economy from overheating.

    Reuters:

    Declaring Lubbock a ‘sanctuary city’ for the unborn, voters have approved a local ban on almost all abortions, and the Texas legislature is considering a law to bar the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

    Thomas Friedman, writing in the New York Times:

    To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud. What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

  45. says

    Rick Santorum … why?

    […] You are no doubt familiar with Rick Santorum’s latest word-burp, this one brushing off all Native American culture as “there isn’t much” while extolling the genius of da white folks who “birthed a nation from nothing,” which is one of very very many racist, bigoted, or just plain gross things that Rick Santorum has always said at regular intervals during the periods in which we have been forced to know of his existence.

    Native American organizations were of course then obliged to point out that Native American culture is absolutely everywhere in America, from the structure of the Constitution to our art to our beliefs to the names on a continent full of signs, and that if you are not aware of that culture perhaps it has more to do with centuries of systemic genocide than the inherent superiority of Rick Santorum’s cousin’s neighbor’s ancestor’s European genes […]

    Asserting bigoted things at regular intervals is Rick Santorum’s thing. […] It is the basis for every one of his theocratic musings, and for his every condemnation of Everyone Else. It was his entire political career, a career that ended in humiliating loss Over A Freaking Decade Ago. He attempted a comeback by running for Republican theocracy—er, presidency—in 2012, got flattened by Mitt Romney despite obvious appeal to the same protofascists that would later declare Typhoid Hitler their new Jesus, and has done Not Much since then except when bored network bookers find his crumb-covered business card between couch cushions and for some reason decide he needs to be inflicted on us again.

    […] He is a “culture warrior,” which is the conservative term for saying vile and racist things while pretending you are Only Asking Questions. The man has no policy chops on any subject. He has no insights into world events. […]

    CNN knew this when they hired him, but did it anyway because their extant conservative pundit crop was aghast at the garbage fire that was the Donald Trump “campaign” and refused to defend him. Enter a new line of conservative CNN contributors who would.

    That the CNN lineup would soon feature an array of flagrant liars, professional bullshitters, longtime grifters and other wackadoodles from the fringes of the party was inevitable. […] Since nobody reputable had the stomach for it, CNN executives simply reached further and further down the food chain of the discredited and the malodorous until they found movement rejects willing to praise whatever new idiocy the Trump camp flung out next.

    […] What’s still not clear is why Rick Santorum, in specific, still appears on CNN airwaves even after the Trump era is over, everyone involved has been outed as crooked scheming lying fascist, and Santorum himself has proven himself to be (again) a cheap, substanceless nobody who is less professional pundit than he is smallpox outbreak personified.

    […] Why is Rick Santorum even still here? Why is Rick Santorum, the pundit equivalent of a slice of white bread, relevant? Why is Rick Santorum, period?

    […] At heart, every network hack who asks Rick Santorum to weigh in on anything, in this actual year of 2021, ought to ask themselves whether this is literally all they can muster up for their audience. Whether booking Bland But Angry Meatlump is intended as the insult to viewers as it comes across as, or whether it is mere apathy. […]

    It remains amazing that Rick Santorum still exists, in this reality—one would have thought he would have faded away […] But no, the man found a second wind in being one of the people in America most willing to defend grotesqueries nobody else could stomach. Sure, he’s a bigot. Sure, he’s blazingly ignorant about every single subject he holds forth on. But his most notable point is being a self-made monument to arrogant white male mediocrity. It’s as if all the cookie-cutter conservative child pundits of the past merged together […]

    It’s been a tough year, and a tough four years, and an actual insurrection occurred just a few months back based on the exact sort of reality-denying gaslighting you relied on nightly for low-cost titillation during times of crisis, and we are tired of you and your performative indifference on every existential threat facing the country. We don’t care anymore. Maybe call us back when you’ve figured yourselves out.

    Link

  46. says

    WH press secretary is really good at her job—watch her flip the script on McConnell

    Wednesday’s White House press briefing began with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaking about the Biden administration’s plans to use the USDA to invest millions in grants to local and regional food producers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He touched on the inequities that non-white farmers have faced historically, and the need for action on the part of the federal government to even the playing field and support all farmers. After taking a few questions, Vilsack handed off the microphone to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

    Psaki fielded questions about everything from COVID-19 public health guidelines to Biden’s travel plans over the next few weeks. A highlight came when Psaki was asked whether Biden and the current administration were “worried” about being able to work with Republicans when GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell continue to tout their unity in opposition to allowing Biden to enact any of his agenda. Psaki explained that the administration really didn’t have to worry about Republican Party obstructionist rhetoric. The reason there was nothing to talk about is that the Biden administration has zero to the power of zero interest in paying attention to obstruction. There is only one job the current administration and Democratic Party-led legislative branch has, and while it is technically identical to the GOP’s job, only one political party is interested to doing it.

    Psaki’s response to all of the fact-free, hand-wringing culture war baloney and policy-free anti-science bleating by Republicans was simply perfect: “I guess the contrast for people to consider is that 100% of our focus is on delivering relief to the American people.” To make it clear, Psaki went on to explain exactly what the GOP is promising to obstruct: “Getting the pandemic under control and putting people back to work. And we welcome support, engagement, and work with Republicans on that. The President has extended an open arm to that. The door to the Oval Office is open.” […]

    Video is available at the link.

  47. says

    Kinzinger hits GOP on ‘operation #coverupJan6’ over Cheney ouster plot

    Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on Wednesday sharply criticized House Republicans for what appears to be an imminent effort to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from House Republican leadership, calling the efforts “#coverupJan6.”

    “Every GOP member of Congress needs to go on the record as to how they will vote on @RepLizCheney in operation #coverupJan6 and concerned donors should take notes,” tweeted Kinzinger, who has repeatedly defended Cheney while criticizing former President Donald Trump.

    “I will vote for Liz,” Kinzinger added.

    […] Kinzinger agreed with Cheney’s communications director on Twitter on Tuesday, saying the problem Republicans find with Cheney is that she will not say the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent or “whitewash” the Capitol riot.

    […] “We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our democratic process. I am committed to doing that, no matter what the short-term political consequences might be,” Cheney wrote.

  48. says

    Former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka said in an interview published on Wednesday that he believes he was fired from his position last year for refusing to investigate President Biden’s son Hunter Biden at the request of Rudy Giuliani and former President Trump.

    Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Ryaboshapka said a recently published transcript of a phone call between Giuliani and Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, was proof that he had been fired for political reasons.

    “It reveals an important detail,” Ryaboshapka told BuzzFeed. “Yermak promised Giuliani to open an investigation into Hunter Biden.”

    “I didn’t know about the essence of the call. I didn’t know Yermak promised to help Giuliani,” he added.

    In February, Time magazine obtained a transcript of a phone call between Giuliani and Yermak in which Giuliani demanded an investigation be opened that would help Trump win a second term in office.

    “Let these investigations go forward,” Giuliani said to Yermak. “Get someone to investigate this.”

    “Zelensky asked me several times if there are violations of the law in this case started by [former prosecutor general Yuriy] Lutsenko, violations by Hunter Biden,” Ryaboshapka said regarding the requested investigation. “We looked at 15 or 16 cases. We reviewed all of them and didn’t find anything that could be a violation of the law.” […]

    Link

  49. says

    More on what Liz Cheney had to say:

    House Republican Conference Chairwoman Liz Cheney (Wyo.) on Wednesday urged the GOP to steer away from what she called a “Trump cult of personality” while vowing to continue speaking out in the face of Republican backlash.

    […] “Trump is seeking to unravel critical elements of our constitutional structure that make democracy work — confidence in the result of elections and the rule of law. No other American president has ever done this,” Cheney wrote.

    […] “History is watching. Our children are watching. […].

    Link

  50. says

    Wonkette: “You’re Still Paying The Secret Service To Cart Trump’s Grown-Ass Hatchlings Around America. Isn’t That GREAT?”

    Oh boy, the Trump grift continues, even though the motherfucker is out of office, after his historic loss to Joe Biden in the 2020 election.

    Turns out, on his way out the door, Donald Trump made the highly irregular HEREBY ORDER to extend Secret Service protection for his filthy grown-ass children for an extra six months. He did it for the filthy grown-ass spawn and the two spouses among them (Jared and Lara), and he also did it for former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, and current slobbering Trump sycophant Mark Meadows. (That garbage loser said just today that Facebook’s decision to keep Trump off the platform is a “sad day for America,” LOL.)

    Why? Because these people are mooches. Is that Trump’s hand in your pocket […]

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) got ahold of records for just the month after Joe Biden’s inauguration, AKA the first month of Trump living in infamy as a common citizen worried when and if the law might catch up to him, and just for that month, the total for the grubby Trump spawn was $140,000. As CREW notes, that number does not include costs paid directly to Trump properties for lodging, only properties outside the Trump family. SPOILER, a lot of the travel has been to places where there are Trump properties. CREW also notes that this is a family that traveled TWELVE TIMES as much as the Obamas during Trump’s time in office.

    […] For example, here are some expenses:

    The new records reveal that in just thirty days, the Trump children maintained their breakneck speed of travel, and racked up significant hotel and transportation bills for the Secret Service. The transportation amounted to $52,296.75, and hotel costs totalled at least $88,678.39, according to the records.

    Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump went directly from their jobs at the White House to a ten day vacation in Salt Lake City with their three children, which cost $62,599.39 for hotel stays alone for their detail. From there, they went to Miami for the month of February, with a short stay at Trump’s Bedminster property from February 19-21. The Secret Service turned over no receipts for that leg of the trip, though it almost certainly funnelled taxpayer money to the Trump business.

    Again, this was also for Eric and Tiffany […] And again, this little perk is going for six months after the guy who beat their daddy was inaugurated. Can you imagine the bills they’ve charged you for by now? […]

    data is simply not provided for a bunch of travel destinations where Trump has properties. Do you really think the Trump spawn was staying elsewhere, or that they weren’t charging you to put up the Secret Service for protection these ungrateful shitholes shouldn’t be entitled to? You’d be pretty dumb to think that, considering who we’re dealing with, so you probably don’t think that. Also these are just the records for the spawn. No idea how much Mnuchin, O’Brien, and Meadows are still charging American taxpayers and maybe funneling into Trump’s [wallet]

    The point of this post is GRIIIIIIIIIIIIFT, just like it is with so many Trump posts.

    Link

  51. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current insurrectionists live blog:

    […]
    Rudy Giuliani’s supporters, including his son, are publicly calling on Donald Trump’s campaign to help Giuliani with his mounting legal fees, CNN reports:

    The nut may crack in the next 36 hours, Andrew Giuliani told CNN, saying Trump could be the hero by jumping in to help Rudy with his mounting legal costs. […]

    Maggie Haberman of the New York Times tweeted that Trump told an associate this week that the decision of whether or not to help Giuliani is somehow not his “call.” […]

  52. tomh says

    Biden administration supports waiving patent protections for Covid vaccines to raise global production
    By Lauren Egan

    WASHINGTON — The Biden administration said Wednesday that it would support waiving patent protections for Covid-19 vaccines after weeks of pressure from the international community as cases surge brutally in India and other countries.

    “The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Katherine Tai, the U.S. trade representative, said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
    […]

    Tai said the Biden administration would negotiate the text of the waiver at the World Trade Organization, which is meeting this week, but she said the “negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

    President Joe Biden has faced increased pressure from the global community and some Democratic lawmakers to suspend drugmakers’ patents for Covid-19 vaccines so other countries could produce generic vaccines.
    […]

    Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “intellectual property rights is part of the problem.”

    “But really, manufacturing is the biggest problem. We have a factory here in the U.S. that has the full intellectual property rights to make the vaccine. They aren’t making doses because the factory has problems,” he said.

    The whole situation recalls that when Dr. Salk developed the polio vaccine in the 1950s, he was asked in an interview, who owned the patent. He famously replied, “Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?”

  53. blf says

    Two snippets from To understand why Joe Biden has shifted left, look at the people working for him:

    The young Democratic staffers who dominate the White House and Capitol today have never known a Republican party worth negotiating with. They are tired of the Republicans and are convincing their principals [the president, the senators and the cabinet secretaries] to join them. And so a huge, popular stimulus package that includes child tax credits, increased health care subsidies and direct relief payments made its way through the Senate within two months of Biden’s inauguration, without a single Republican vote. When Washington pundits howled that the package was too large and not bipartisan, White House staff simply pointed to public opinion polling demonstrating the overwhelming popularity of the bill, marking a generational shift away from the centralised gatekeepers of Washington’s “Sunday shows”, the political talkshows that have represented and defined the mainstream current of Washington opinion for decades.

    This generation of staffers haven’t just got different tactics: their ideological commitments are different too. Many of them lived through the Great Recession, have accumulated significantly less wealth than their baby boomer and gen X elders, and therefore have a much more positive view of how government action can improve people’s lives.

    [… T]he Biden administration’s clear-sighted, progressive vision for domestic policy doesn’t extend to foreign policy. Unlike the numerous former Warren staffers running around the National Economic Council and treasury departments, the Situation Room doesn’t have leftwing Senate staffers moving through its doors.

    Still, some good signs are perhaps emerging. The Democrats who now staff the White House came of age knowing that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were failures, and that Washington’s foreign policy “blob” — from the state department to the Pentagon and the intelligence agencies — led us astray. And the agreement on what went wrong has paid some immediate dividends, with Biden overriding the national security apparatus to announce that the United States will leave Afghanistan this year after two long, largely pointless decades spent in the country.

    This insight — younger domestic staff who know there’s no point to engaging with or waiting for the thugs, combined with long-time military-industrial profiteering staff for foreign affairs — is an interesting way of looking at the current administration. As the opinion column notes, things like reallocating funds spent on police for non-policing purposes (“defund the police”) haven’t made much traction (yet?), at least in part due “the principles” seemingly-ingrained thinking. Seemingly-ingrained, perhaps, but not necessarily rigid or frozen.

    The author, “Joel Wertheimer is a civil rights attorney and was formerly associate staff secretary for Barack Obama”.

  54. says

    blf @59, Thanks for posting those links. Kimmel’s interview with Dr. Fauci was really good, and quite useful.

    In other news, Marc Lamont Hill asks the question every Republican seeking to ban critical race theory must answer

    Republican lawmakers across the country are pushing to ban critical race theory from schools in a giant effort to create a culture war and distract from the fact that what they really want to ban is any teaching about race and racism in the U.S. since the early 1960s. There’s one key question all of these Republicans need to be asked, and Marc Lamont Hill got one of them on his show Black News Tonight and asked it.

    The question? “What is critical race theory?”

    Hill posed that question to Vernon Jones, a Democrat turned Trump Republican currently running for Georgia governor who has vowed to ban critical race theory, and—as would probably be the case with a minimum 98% of the Republicans vowing to ban critical race theory in schools—Jones had not a clue. He started talking about Christopher Columbus and people who use “their own ideology and their own party affiliation to go to the extreme.”

    Hill pressed, because that isn’t a definition of critical race theory.

    “Well, first of all, I can tell you, but it’s left up to you to understand,” Jones responded. “I can’t make you understand. The fact is that critical race theory, even on this basis, should not be taught in our schools, period. Now if you can’t understand—”

    “But what is it?”

    “Well, to me, what it does, to me, my interpretation as well as many others …”

    “No, not what it does, what is it? How do you define it? I’m just asking you to define critical race theory because my audience may not know.”

    “Well, obviously you don’t know and you haven’t told your audience.”

    At this point, Hill’s delighted chuckle and disbelieving “I don’t know?” pointed to the trap he’d sprung. But Jones thought he was winning this exchange and began haranguing Hill to answer the question he himself had started off by asking, becoming increasingly abusive as he mocked the idea that an Ivy League PhD—which Hill has—could be a sign of expertise in the definition of critical race theory. At the point where Jones called him “as dumb as two left shoes,” Hill had his microphone muted, saying “We’re not going to name-call on this show. I have not name-called you, sir. You have come on this show, you’re a Black Republican, I have not called you a name”—and then he went on to list all of the names he had not called Jones, just in case anyone was wondering what it would have looked like if he’d decided to name-call.

    “And you’re not going to come on my show and call me dumb,” he concluded. “What I will tell you is that critical race theory is a theory that actually emerged out of critical legal studies. It is a theory that makes an attempt to understand the law through the lens of race and it’s founded on some fundamental presumptions. One is the intractability of race and racism, meaning it’s an intractable problem in America and that we have to use the lens of race to make sense of things. It also is based on the use of counterstories, listening to the, as Derrick Bell, the critical race scholar, said, the voices at the bottom of the well, to make sense of the world and to make sense of the law. These are two big theories, two big pillars of it. And so what we want to do is, if you want to ban it, you have to explain to me why.”

    Okay, so Lamont Hill definitely knows what critical race theory is. Shocking from a scholar who’s taught relevant subjects at Temple University, Columbia University, and Morehouse College. But it’s what he said next that really gets to the heart of these efforts to ban critical race studies—not just the reason Jones is joining the trend, but the whole point of the effort.

    ”[…] The fact of the matter is, he can’t define it because he don’t know what it is. They look for things to ban to signal to white people ‘Hey, I got your back,’” Hill said.

    ”They ban things that aren’t even an issue. There is no public school teacher in America who is attempting to put critical race theory in schools. Critical race theory isn’t even taught in high schools. It’s not even really taught in college. It is taught in law school and it has increasingly been taught in graduate school.”

    Hill directed his closing comments at Jones as a Black Republican—“You want to ban a theory that nobody is trying to bring in in the first place? That is a smoke signal to white America and really to white racists” […] They are all trying to ban something that is not seriously being taught in the schools, because using a term that sounds a little jargon-y and advanced is a lot more palatable to the (white) general public than saying “we just want to ban schools from talking about the existence of racism or teaching about the contributions of anyone but white people.” Which is actually what’s going on here, to the extent that there’s a real effort to influence school curriculum.

    Video is available at the link.

  55. says

    Not politics, but interesting – Ars Technica – “Mighty morphin’ flat-packed pasta takes on 3D shapes as it cooks”:

    Pasta comes in many shapes and sizes, which is part of its inherent delight. But all those irregular shapes tend to be inefficient when it comes to packaging. So what if you could buy your pasta of choice in a simple, compact 2D form and then watch it take on the desired final 3D shape as it cooks, thereby doubling the fun factor? Scientists at Carnegie-Mellon University (CMU) have figured out a simple mechanism to do just that, according to a new paper published in the journal Science Advances.

    “We were inspired by flat-packed furniture and how it saved space, made storage easier, and reduced the carbon footprint associated with transportation,” said co-author Lining Yao, director of the Morphing Matter Lab at CMU’s School of Computer Science. “We decided to look at how the morphing matter technology we were developing in the lab could create flat-packed pastas that offered similar sustainability outcomes.” According to the team’s calculations, even if you pack macaroni pasta perfectly, you will still end up with as much as 67 percent of the volume being air. The ability to make flat pasta for shipping that takes on a specific 3D shape when cooked is one potential solution.

    The solution: something Wang, Yao, and their co-authors term “groove-based transient morphing.” They found that stamping flat pasta sheets with different groove patterns enabled them to control the final pasta shape after cooking. According to the authors, the grooves increase how long it takes to cook that part of the pasta. So those areas expand less than the smooth areas, giving rise to many different shapes.

    …The researchers were able to produce simple helical and cone shapes, as well as more complex saddles and twists (the latter achieved by introducing double-sided grooves).

    The basic principle should be applicable to any material that swells when immersed in water. The researchers demonstrated as much using the same groove technique to morph silicon (PDMS) sheets into different shapes, analogous to their pasta experiments. In addition to the benefits to sustainable packaging and shipping, the authors believe this approach could be useful in soft robotics and biomedical devices….

    More, including a fun video, atl. “Groove-based transient morphing” is my new favorite phrase. It seems like this has even more potential applications, but I’m not sure what exactly.

  56. says

    The Bulwark – “On the Anniversary of a Failed Coup, France Faces Its Nationalist Faction”:

    …The insurrectionist generals are a warning. If polls are prologue to next year’s presidential race, the Republic will face its real danger: Marine Le Pen.

    Incidentally, I spent the early part of this week Inside the Mind of Marine Le Pen, a disturbing place to be. As always when looking at far-right ideology, I was struck by both the malignant inanity of it all and the complete lack of any positive vision for people.

  57. says

    Politico – “‘Doomsday scenario’: Lagging vaccine rates stir fears of dangerous variants”:

    Health officials are worried that pockets of the country slow to get vaccinated against Covid-19 could turn into breeding grounds for more dangerous virus variants, mimicking the experience in South Africa and Brazil.

    Vaccination rates have been falling for weeks in parts of the South and mountain West, prompting the White House to rethink its vaccination strategy to reach those reluctant or unwilling to get the shots.

    Nearly 45 percent of all Americans have at least one dose compared to 33 percent of Alabamans. The rates are roughly the same in Mississippi and Louisiana and only slightly better in Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Tennessee and Wyoming, where hospitals are no longer overrun but case counts have plateaued. Officials say the virus remains a persistent enough threat to kill hundreds each day and potentially mutate into something that puts even vaccinated people at heightened risk.

    Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday it is essential to quickly get vaccination rates to 70 percent in each community to cut chains of virus transmission, because “variants are a wildcard that could reverse this progress we have made and could set us back.”

    But with doubts growing about the ability to reach the 70 percent target, the question is whether the country’s luck curbing the pandemic will hold out. Sequencing of the virus to detect mutations may be one of the best public health tools for warding off a potential disaster. But the actual sequencing being done in the U.S. is still below ideal levels, and there are no guarantees that it can provide enough early warning that the stealthy, evolving virus won’t turn into something far more dangerous.

    “Every successive transmission is an opportunity for a new variant to emerge,” said Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s state health officer. “We have been quite fortunate that the variants that have emerged remain fairly good matches to the vaccines we have. We are not guaranteed to be so fortunate in the future.”

    “Every time there is a new variant, there is a nervous question we ask: ‘Is this the doomsday scenario?'” said Shereef Elnahal, CEO of University Hospital in Newark, N.J., and a former state health commissioner.

    The U.S. to date has been fortunate that all three vaccines authorized for use appear to work relatively well against the known variants, even though the one first identified in South Africa has posed a challenge for some other shots in use elsewhere or still under development.

    Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, told POLITICO Wednesday that the risk of dangerous variants may already be diminished because of the recent pace of vaccinations.

    “If an overwhelming portion of the population is vaccinated, it’s unlikely you’ll see the kind of surge like we saw in January,” he said. “That’s why it’s important to get to that end game.”

    The states struggling the most to vaccinate are the same ones that have a host of poor public health outcomes, particularly in rural communities. Local and state officials point to conservative-leaning populations often skeptical of government, as well as spotty health infrastructure that leaves lower-income residents struggling to access a medical provider. Mississippi state health officer Thomas Dobbs last week said many rural residents are unaccustomed to seeking care until they are sick, and that it’s going to take more than a few public service announcements to change the culture.

    In Alabama, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, cases have increased slightly over the last month, concerning public health officials who fear it’s only a matter of time before a variant of concern emerges.

    “It’s a very real threat,” said Jeanne Marrazzo, director of the infectious disease division at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. “If you have a population that is not well vaccinated and you combine that with a lot of activity likely to spread the virus — where things could take off.”

    The Biden administration is still grappling with how to address these pockets of the country with stubbornly high Covid caseloads and low vaccine uptake….

    For now, though, public health officials have been reluctant to mandate the vaccine or set up any kind of government passport system to verify a person’s vaccination status. Instead, they’re stressing that the country break down vaccine resistance incrementally and not resign itself to pockets of unvaccinated Americans where Covid spreads.

    “This laissez-faire attitude is not the right one,” said Oscar Alleyne, chief of programs at the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

  58. says

    Guardian – “‘Are we in trouble? Absolutely’: Alberta battles worst Covid rate in North America”:

    In an open field outside the prairie town of Bowden, Alberta, hundreds of people braved chilly winds and the threat of spring rain to attend their first rodeo in more than a year.

    For the unmasked attendees cheering on as riders clung into bucking horses, the gathering this weekend must have seemed like a long-awaited return to normality.

    But the province is currently battling the worst coronavirus outbreak in North America: this week, Alberta had an active case rate of 534 per 100,000 – more than double the country’s average, and one of the worst in the world.

    And the illegal “No More Lockdowns Rodeo Rally” highlighted the challenges officials face in containing a brutal third wave in a province long averse to perceived governmental overreach.

    On Wednesday, the province became the first in Canada to offer the Pfizer vaccine to residents aged over 12, beginning next week, a day after premier Jason Kenney announced online schooling, increased fines for lockdown violations, and the closure of some businesses in areas with high case rates.

    “We will not permit our healthcare system to be overwhelmed. We must not and we will not force our doctors and nurses to decide who gets care and who doesn’t,” Kenney said during a televised address on Tuesday.

    Police are reviewing the rodeo, but local reports suggest that no officers were dispatched to break up the event, and it is unclear if any organizers or attendees had received fines for breaking the province’s rules, which limit outdoor gatherings to 10 people.

    “The reason we are at this critical stage of the pandemic in Alberta, with record high daily case counts and intensive care numbers, is precisely because, for whatever reason, too many Albertans are ignoring the rules we have in place,” Kenney told reporter on Monday, adding that it was “astounding” that more than a year into the pandemic, many in the province believe the virus is a hoax or government conspiracy.

    One recent poll found that 75% of Albertans believed the premier was doing a bad job of handling the pandemic – but a portion of that displeasure came from groups who feel Kenney has gone too far.

    Even though the conservative leader has been wary to implement aggressive restrictions seen in other provinces Kenney has faced insurrection from within his own party, with 16 lawmakers recently publishing a letter criticizing restrictions on retail and dining.

    But an unwillingness to bring in strict measures has led to a “predictable and preventable” new surge in cases, said Joe Vipond, an emergency room doctor in Calgary.

    Even with new restrictions in place, critics worry the measures might not be enough and aggressive case growth in the coming weeks is already baked in.

    “For somebody who went into medicine with a view to protecting life and health of my fellow citizens, the hardest part about this is knowing that every single illness that we see now, every single death is a preventable one,” said Vipond.

    “Unless something dramatically changes with the numbers, it’s hard to imagine how we get out of this without a healthcare disaster on our hands.”

  59. blf says

    Montana’s Republican governor pulls pandemic payments — is he for real?:

    Greg Gianforte says the financial assistance program is doing more harm than good. You know, Governor, Covid isn’t over yet?

    The coronavirus pandemic — heard of it? It’s famously still going on! Though national case numbers are finally starting to drop and recent regional outbreaks in the midwest have begun to subside, there were still about 50,000 new Covid-19 infections recorded in the US on Tuesday and just over 700 new virus-related deaths.

    But Greg Gianforte, Montana’s governor, has other priorities: he’s been talking about a labor shortage in a cynical attempt to cut public assistance. The Republican governor released a statement on Tuesday announcing his state will stop participating in the federal program that has given unemployed workers additional unemployment payments since the start of the pandemic — in an apparent attempt to get Montanans back to work, and he plans to give those who choose to do so something he calls a return-to-work bonus.

    Here’s why it won’t work:

    (1) The return-to-work bonus is not a replacement for added unemployment benefits.
    [… A] one-time payment of $1,200, which will only go to the first 12,500 workers to claim it — a tactic which, by the way, has huge “while supplies last!!” vibes — simply does not compare to $300 a week for the duration of the pandemic, ie, the foreseeable future.
    […]

    (2) What could “labor shortage” be another term for?
    [… T]here aren’t enough job openings for the number of people unemployed; even if the governor’s plan succeeds in filling those vacant positions as intended, there will still be over 10,000 people without jobs to apply for, forced to subsist on less. […]

    (3) Workers also aren’t to blame for making more on unemployment than they would at their jobs.
    […]
    Full-time workers earning minimum wage in Montana earn about $346 per week — far less than MIT estimates an average single Montanan needs to live. For those living with children, even the enhanced unemployment benefits wouldn’t cut it.

    Nearly two-thirds of Americans have been living paycheck-to-paycheck since the pandemic hit stateside. So if I were a governor and wanted to, say, prevent an already-mounting housing crisis from mounting any further, want to give my residents enough to live on. But maybe that’s far too simple.

  60. says

    Yiiiiiiikes – Guardian one-star review of Van Morrison’s new album – “Van Morrison: Latest Record Project Volume 1 review – depressing rants by tinfoil milliner”:

    …Morrison’s longstanding sense of distrust – the result of some dubious contracts he signed in the 1960s – long ago calcified into a weltanschauung in which everyone was lying, with the exception of a certain Northern Irish singer. He’s sounded like a conspiracy theorist before – on 2005’s They Sold Me Out, he averred that being “sold out for a few shekels” [!!!] was “the oldest story that’s ever been told”; “brainwashed the suckers again and perpetrated the myth,” he sang on 2008’s School of Hard Knocks, “propaganda far and wide” – but on Latest Record Project Volume 1, the sheeple are truly awoken.

    It’s M15 this and mind-control that, secret “meetings in the forest”, mainstream media lies and Kool Aid being drunk by the gallon. On Western Man, there’s some troubling alt-right-y stuff about how the west’s “rewards” have been “stolen” by foreigners unknown and we should be “prepared to fight”. And he’s convinced that the shadowy forces of the establishment are engaged in efforts to silence him: “You have to be careful of everything you say”, “I’m a targeted individual”. The latter seems a fairly weird claim to make in the middle of a two-hour long album released by a major label: as far as can be ascertained, Sony is a multinational conglomerate with interests in banking and insurance, rather than an anarchist collective devoted to fearlessly speaking truth to power. Clearly the shadowy forces of the establishment need to up their game a bit.

    It’s a genuinely depressing listen, but at least there’s a kind of purpose here, even if it isn’t the purpose its creator intends. The album opens with the title track, which demands to know why people are more interested in Morrison’s work “from long ago” than what he’s doing now. Should anyone be wondering the same thing, Latest Record Project then answers said question in the most exhaustive detail imaginable.

  61. says

    Guardian – “UK sends patrol vessels as 80 French protest boats gather off Jersey”:

    Two British naval patrol vessels have arrived off the coast of Jersey as about 80 French boats also gathered at the port in St Helier in protest over post-Brexit rules on fishing rights.

    HMS Severn and HMS Tamar were deployed a mile off the coast of Jersey while observing the French flotilla amassing at about 6am south of the Channel Island’s capital before it headed into the port just before 7am.

    Downing Street said the patrol vessels, which are armed, had been sent to “monitor the situation”, but some criticised the decision as a heavy-handed reaction designed to boost the Conservatives’ credentials on the day of local elections across Britain.

    French authorities also sent in patrols to monitor the situation.

    The standoff is expected to continue throughout the morning but hopes of a breakthrough rose after Jersey’s government said the environment minister, Gregory Guida, and external affairs minister, Ian Gorst, would talk to them.

    They are expected to go out on a boat to meet protest leaders at around midday but restrictions mean talks will involve shouting from one vessel to the other.

    French fishers are protesting over new licences issued on Friday that restrict for the first time the number of days they can operate in shared waters.

    The EU also backed the claims of French fishers. In a statement issued overnight, the European Commission said the conditions set on licences for fishing in the Channel Island’s waters were in breach of the trade agreement struck on Christmas Eve.

    The mobilisation echoes the cod wars of the 1970s, when there were violent clashes on the high seas between British vessels and Icelandic fishers.

    A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson had “underlined his unwavering support for Jersey” in the crisis, describing any threat to blockade Jersey’s main entry point for vital supplies as “unjustified”.

    “As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two offshore patrol vessels to monitor the situation … They agreed the UK and Jersey governments would continue to work closely on this issue.”

    Craig Murray, a former British ambassador, said he could “not believe how stupid, on every level, it is to send gunboats”….

    More atl. (The article appears to have been updated several times and is kind of a mess at this point.)

  62. says

    Guardian – “EU ‘ready to discuss’ waiver on Covid vaccine patents”:

    The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, has said the bloc is “ready to discuss” a US-backed proposal for a waiver on the patents for Covid-19 vaccines and the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he was “absolutely in favour” of the plan as pressure built for a move that could boost their production and distribution around the world.

    Pharmaceutical companies reacted with anger, and some countries with private astonishment, at the Joe Biden administration’s decision on Wednesday to back the temporary suspension of vaccine patent rights. One diplomat accused the US of grandstanding and coming up with crowd-pleasing simplistic solutions to long-term problems.

    Von der Leyen said the EU’s vaccination effort was accelerating, with 30 Europeans vaccinated each second while it was also exporting more than 200m doses, but it was “also ready to discuss any proposals that address the crisis in an effective and pragmatic manner … That’s why we are ready to discuss how the US proposal for a waiver on intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines could help achieve that objective.”

    Macron’s support for the US move marked a shift for France, which had previously argued that a patent waiver would discourage innovation. The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said Berlin too was open to discussion.

    The head of the panel reviewing the World Health’s Organization handling of the pandemic, Helen Clark, the former New Zealand prime minister, earlier called on countries that have obstructed the temporary suspension of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, such as the UK, Switzerland and EU states, to follow the US lead and back the initiative.

    She described the Biden administration’s announcement as a game-changer and said that pharmaceutical companies that had received billions in public money now needed to spread knowledge to scale up vaccine production.

    “When the US moves it is such a powerful signal,” Clark told the BBC. “One would expect the UK, the EU and Switzerland and others that have been obstructing the discussion on the waiver need to say: ‘Yes, we are prepared to negotiate’.”…

  63. says

    Here’s a link to the May 6 Guardian (support them if you can!) coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    France to open up Covid vaccines to all those over-50 from Monday

    France will lower the age of those eligible for Covid-19 vaccines to all French people aged 50 and over from next Monday onwards, five days ahead of an initial timetable, president Emmanuel Macron has said.

  64. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Reuters reports:

    Dutch researchers have trained bees, which have an unusually keen sense of smell, to identify samples infected with Covid-19, a finding they said could cut waiting times for test results to just seconds.

    To train the bees, scientists in the bio-veterinary research laboratory at Wageningen University gave them sugary water as a reward after showing them samples infected with Covid-19.

    They would get no reward after being shown a non-infected sample.

    Having got used to the system, the bees were able to spontaneously extend their tongues to receive a reward when presented with an infected sample, said Wim van der Poel, a professor of virology who took part in the project.

    The extending of the bees’ straw-like tongues to drink is confirmation of a positive coronavirus test result, according to the researchers.

    It can take hours or days to get a Covid-19 test result, but the response from the bees is immediate.

    The method is also cheap, potentially making it useful for countries where tests are scarce, they said.

  65. says

    Rachel Maddow last night on the story @ #41 above – “Bizarre Excuse Behind Cuckoo GOP-Led Vote Audit”:

    Rachel Maddow looks at what is happening with the pro-Trump ballot-examining spectacle in Maricopa County, Arizona that state senate Republicans are calling an “audit,” where observers are reportedly not allowed to share their observations, and a special (?) camera is being used on ballots to look for traces of bamboo to confirm a theory that 40,000 fake ballots were flown in from China.

    Video atl.

  66. says

    CNN – “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs restrictive voting bill”:

    Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday morning signed into law a controversial voting bill aimed at curbing access to mail-in voting in the state, joining a host of other GOP-led states pushing new limits in connection with former President Donald Trump’s baseless claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

    In signing the bill during an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” the Florida Republican highlighted provisions of the bill including stricter voter ID requirements for voting by mail, creating limits on who can pick up and return a voter’s ballot, and banning private funding for elections.

    Local media outlets told CNN that they were not allowed to go inside the morning signing event and that it was a Fox News exclusive.

    Some of the restrictions created by the bill, Senate Bill 90, also include expanding partisan observation power during ballot tabulation and creating additional restrictions for drop box use.

    The new Florida voting law faces immediate legal challenges.

    A coalition that includes the League of Women Voters of Florida and the Black Voters Matter Fund announced it had filed a lawsuit within minutes of DeSantis signing the law. It challenges several provisions, including its new restrictions on ballot drop boxes and the prohibition on organizations and volunteers returning ballots on behalf of voters.

    A separate lawsuit filed Thursday morning by Common Cause, Florida branches of the NAACP and a disabilities rights group describes the new law as “the latest in a long line of voter suppression laws targeting Florida’s Black voters, Latino voters, and voters with disabilities.”

    Last week, after days of contentious debate and last-minute amendments bouncing between chambers, the Florida Republican-controlled state House and Senate came to an agreement and approved SB90 along party-line votes on the eve of the state’s final day of the legislative session.

    The bill is part of a Republican-led effort nationwide to restrict voting access at the state level in the wake of record turnout in last November’s elections. A tally by the left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice at New York University found that 361 bills with provisions that restrict voting had been introduced in 47 states as of March 24.

    In the past month, the effort to restrict voting has intensified as state legislatures begin to head into the final months of their respective sessions.

    Democrats frequently mentioned the continued public fallout from Georgia’s recent election overhaul bill during debate on the Florida measure, which they called a “revival of Jim Crow in this state.”…

  67. says

    Politico – “U.S. Justice Department worried about Arizona vote recount”:

    The U.S. Department of Justice expressed concern Wednesday about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.

    In a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said the Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots from the state’s most populous county to a contractor may run afoul of federal law requiring ballots to remain in the control of elections officials for 22 months.

    And Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan said that the Senate contractor’s plans to directly contact voters could amount to illegal voter intimidation.

    “Past experience with similar investigative efforts around the country has raised concerns that they can be directed at minority voters, which potentially can implicate the anti-intimidation prohibitions of the Voting Rights Act,” Karlan wrote. “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future.”

    Karlan wants Fann to lay out how the Senate and its contractors will ensure federal laws are followed. She pointed to news reports showing lax security at the former basketball arena where the ballots are being recounted by hand.

    Fann said Senate attorneys were working on a response she promised to share when it was completed.

    The developments come as the counting of 2.1 million ballots from the November election won by President Joe Biden are off to a slow pace. Bennett told the Associated Press Tuesday night that teams doing a hand recount of the presidential race lost by former President Donald Trump and the U.S. Senate race won by Democrat Mark Kelly has tallied less than 10% of the ballots since starting on April 23.

    Bennett said it is clear the count can’t be done by the time the deal allowing the Senate to use the Coliseum ends on May 14. Several days of high school graduations are set to begin on May 15.

  68. blf says

    I watched Arizona’s unprecedented election audit — here’s what’s happening:

    […]
    For all the attention around the audit, the thing that stood out to me the most when I watched it up close on Tuesday was how slow and sleepy things were. Of the 46 tables in the arena, less than half were filled with people counting. Ken Bennett, a former Arizona secretary of state who is serving as the senate’s liaison to the audit, said officials hoped to have more counters in the arena soon, but temporary workers were undergoing background checks.

    Audit counters are divided into several teams and wear colored shirts to denote which they are a part of (there’s pink, blue, green, and yellow). Three members of each team are at each table and mark down what’s on the ballot as it rotates on a lazy susan around the table. The whole process isn’t quick — I timed one table counting 29 ballots in three minutes on Tuesday.

    Once a batch of ballots is counted, a designated person at the table makes sure the tallies of all three counters match. The ballots then are moved over to a second station, where workers photograph them and put them through a device resembling a scanner. The purpose of this station appears to be to verify the authenticity of the ballots. It reportedly relies on dubious technology from Jovan Pulitzer, an election conspiracy-theory advocate, that purports to verify the authenticity of ballots by checking the paper folds and ink. Auditors are also reportedly looking for traces of bamboo in the ballot paper, an echo of a baseless conspiracy theory that ballots were smuggled in from Asia. Even some people helping with the audit are skeptical of Pulitzer’s technology.

    “This guy is nuts,” John Brakey, an election transparency advocate who was brought in to help with the audit, told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s a fraudster … It’s ridiculous that we’re doing some of this.”
    […]

    That Pulitzer nutcase has come up before — he’s the nutter other nutters (and possibly he himself?) claim invented the QR code, which he most emphatically did not: Masahiro Hara at Japanese company Denso Wave invented it. The Pulitzer Phraud was also pushing some sort of magic scanning back then (after hair furor lost).

  69. says

    Text quoted by SC in comment 76: “In signing the bill during an appearance on “Fox & Friends […]”

    He signed the bill on Fox & Friends?! WTF?

    Text quoted by SC in comment 71:

    “When the US moves it is such a powerful signal,” Clark told the BBC. “One would expect the UK, the EU and Switzerland and others that have been obstructing the discussion on the waiver need to say: ‘Yes, we are prepared to negotiate’.”…

    Yes! And that’s exactly why President Biden is right to have the U.S. lead this effort.

    Text quoted by blf in comment 79:

    “This guy is nuts,” John Brakey, an election transparency advocate who was brought in to help with the audit, told reporters on Tuesday. “He’s a fraudster … It’s ridiculous that we’re doing some of this.”

    Yep. Definitely whacko. Thanks or additional information about the false “invented the QR code” claim.

  70. Akira MacKenzie says

    Yep. Definitely whacko. Thanks or additional information about the false “invented the QR code” claim.

    Reminds me of Shiva Ayyadurai, the conspiracy kook who appeared on Mike Lindell’s “docu-movie” [sic] Absolute Proof. He claims that he invented email.

  71. blf says

    @81, “Shiva Ayyadurai, the conspiracy kook […] claims that he invented email.”

    Good grief. Don’t think I’ve ever heard of him before, but a quick search indicates his (possibly retracted?) claim is based on some program he allegedly wrote in the very late 1970s (1978 or 1979). Which therefore must be false, since at that very time I was using e-mail, using programmes and protocols dating back years, including e-mail sent & received over UUCP networking. (I didn’t have access to the ARPAnet — now the Internet — at the time.)

  72. blf says

    From the Grauniad’s current States pandemic and politics live blog:

    Twitter has suspended the account @DJTDesk, which had been tweeting out statements from Donald Trump, who remains banned from the social media platform.

    A Twitter spokesperson told NBC News that the account violated the platform’s ban evasion policy, which prohibits accounts with the apparent intention to promote content from a suspended user.

    […]

  73. tomh says

    NYT:
    Opposition to Net Neutrality Was Faked, New York Says

    Internet service providers funded an effort that yielded millions of fake comments supporting the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of so-called net neutrality rules in 2017, the New York attorney general said on Thursday.

    Internet providers, working through a group called Broadband for America, spent $4.2 million on the project, the attorney general said. The effort generated roughly nine million comments to the agency and letters to Congress backing the rollback, almost all of which were signed by people who had never agreed to the use of their names on such comments, according to the investigation. Some of the names had instead been obtained earlier, in other marketing efforts, and were then used to submit comments, officials said. The agency approved the repeal in late 2017.

    Broadband for America’s members include some of America’s most prominent internet providers, like AT&T, Comcast and Charter, as well as several trade groups representing the industry.
    […]

    “Instead of actually looking for real responses from the American people, marketing companies are luring vulnerable individuals to their websites with freebies, co-opting their identities, and fabricating responses that giant corporations are then using to influence the policies and laws that govern our lives,” Letitia James, the New York attorney general, said in a statement.
    […]

    The attorney general’s office said it had reached agreements with three “lead generation” services that were involved — Fluent, Opt-Intelligence and React2Media, companies that gather customers for clients as part of marketing efforts. Under the agreements, the companies said they would more clearly disclose to individuals how their personal information was being used. The companies also agreed to pay over $4 million in penalties.
    […]

    Ajit Pai, then the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, announced a plan to repeal the net neutrality rules in April 2017….Investigators said that Broadband for America acted to give Mr. Pai “cover” to repeal the broadband regulations.

  74. says

    As economy recovers, unemployment claims dip below key threshold

    Now that the total is below 500,000 for the first time in 14 months, it’s getting easier to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

    […] progress on weekly unemployment claims has been hit or miss in the early months of 2021, but the new report from the Labor Department represents great news. CNBC reported this morning:

    The U.S. employment picture improved sharply last week, with first-time claims for unemployment insurance hitting a fresh pandemic-era low. Initial claims totaled 498,000 for the week ended March 1, against the Dow Jones estimate of 527,000.

    […] it was in March 2020 when jobless claims first spiked in response to the COVID-19 crisis, climbing to over 3 million. That weekly total soon after reached nearly 7 million as the economy cratered. For 55 consecutive weeks, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits was worse than at any time during the Great Recession.

    And now, that’s no longer the case.

    […] To be sure, it’d be a mistake to see 498,000 jobless claims as good news on its own. In fact, under normal circumstances, this would be an awful total. In the early months of 2020, for example, the U.S. average on unemployment claims was roughly 211,000 — well under half of the total from today’s report.

    But given what Americans have been dealing with throughout the pandemic, these new figures are worth feeling good about.

    As for the politics, when President Joe Biden signed the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion COVID relief package a couple of months ago, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) scrambled to set public expectations. “The American people are going to see an American comeback this year,” the GOP leader said, “but it won’t be because of this liberal bill.”

    McConnell added, “We’re about to have a boom. And if we do have a boom, it will have absolutely nothing to do with this $1.9 trillion.”

    It was foolish rhetoric for a variety of reasons, and as the economy picks up steam in response to the American Relief Plan, McConnell’s efforts to deny Democrats credit suddenly looks a little worse.

    Postscript: The official tally for job creation in April will be released by the Department of Labor tomorrow. The numbers from March were heartening, and expectations are high that the April totals will be even better.

  75. says

    Biden’s ACA special enrollment period continues to pay off

    As one observer put it, “So this is what it looks like when the people in charge of ‘Obamacare’ want to enroll as many people as possible.”

    Last spring, as the coronavirus crisis first started to intensify, the Trump administration considered creating a special open-enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act. […]

    As Politico reported at the time, the decision appeared to be largely political: Team Trump didn’t want to turn to “Obamacare” to help people in a crisis.

    That was then; this is now.

    About a week after Inauguration Day, President Joe Biden signed an executive order, re-opening the healthcare.gov marketplace. The Hill reported this morning that the policy is working as intended.

    The Biden administration’s special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act has seen almost 940,000 Americans sign up for ObamaCare coverage this year. Officials released the updated numbers on Thursday showing that between Feb. 15 and April 30, nearly 940,000 people have enrolled under the extra signup period instituted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    […] These are heartening numbers, but they actually understate the scope of the good news. As the New York Times recently noted, “The new enrollment figures cover the 36 states that use Healthcare.gov to run their health insurance marketplaces. They do not include Americans enrolling in coverage in the 14 states and District of Columbia that manage their own markets, many of which also have extended enrollment periods this year.”

    What’s more, this good news coincides with the expansive new ACA benefits included in the Democrats’ COVID relief package: Some will see their premiums cut in half, while millions will see their premiums fall to literally zero, thanks entirely to the investments in the American Rescue Plan.

    That’s working well, too: the Department of Health and Human Services also announced this morning that after the new ACA benefits kicked in on April 1, nearly 2 million consumers — who already had coverage — returned to the marketplace and reduced their monthly premiums.

    […] the issue is one of political will. Donald Trump and his team could’ve taken these steps more than a year ago. The options were on the table to create new open-enrollment periods, alert the public to the coverage opportunities, make premiums even more affordable, and so on.

    […] Team Biden not only created a new enrollment period, the Democratic administration also launched an “ad blitz” and forged “partnerships with community organizations and advocacy groups” on this […]

    The current administration wants more Americans to get coverage they can afford, and it’s taken effective steps to make that happen. The results speak for themselves.

  76. says

    Good news, (CBS News source):

    New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) this week signed into law a bill to automatically restore the voting rights of New Yorkers after they’re released from prison. It codified a policy the governor created through a 2018 executive order.

    In other news, Ron DeSantis fails again, (summary of the Tampa Bay Times report if from Steve Benen):

    Remember when former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg eyed paying off Floridians’ court debts so they could vote in the 2020 elections? Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) requested a criminal investigation, and the Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday, “After devoting more than 700 man hours to the case, which included reviewing 7,600 records and trying to interview more than 100 people, agents found no evidence that anyone was told to vote for a specific political party as a condition of having their outstanding court fees and fines paid off, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Wednesday. Agents didn’t find any evidence that Bloomberg had donated to the effort, either.”

  77. says

    Biden admin officially reverses policy retaliating against so-called sanctuary cities

    The previous administration’s war on so-called “sanctuary cities” will be no more, Immigration Impact reports. Following a January order from President Joe Biden that began the process of repealing the previous president’s retaliatory policy blocking federal funds from these localities, the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Attorney General Merrick Garland has issued an order that resumes such grants without impediments.

    “Nearly all the courts to review the issue blocked the Trump administration’s denial of federal funds to sanctuary cities,” Immigration Impact reported. “The Trump administration appealed one of these cases to the Supreme Court. The Court later dismissed the case at the Biden administration’s request.”

    When he wasn’t busy happily terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy or ordering that babies be stolen from their parents at the southern border, former Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was an eager player in the previous president’s anti-immigrant agenda. That included issuing his own threats against U.S. cities, claiming that “sanctuary” policies put “the safety of their communities and their residents at risk.”

    That, of course, has always been a big giant lie. “Cities that have adopted ‘sanctuary’ policies did not record an increase in crime as a result of their decision to limit cooperation with federal immigration authorities, according to a new Stanford University report,” The Washington Post reported last year. Just as importantly, these policies have helped keep families together, with the research showing “deportations decreased by about one-third overall in jurisdictions that adopted sanctuary policies,” that report continued. […]

  78. says

    Fox News is playing a deadly game with its viewers, and death is winning

    The United States has enough COVID-19 vaccine to cover every person in the nation—and then some. In every state, pharmacies and clinics are offering shots on a walk-in basis, no appointment necessary. States and localities are offering everything from free beer to a $100 cash payment for those ready to take a jab. Even so, just 57% of adults have been vaccinated, and even as the availability of vaccine has been increasing, the rate of vaccination has been steadily decreasing.

    […] Nearly half of all Republicans refuse to be vaccinated. The reason behind this reason is equally clear: a steady stream of conspiracy theories and false information designed to make the vaccine seem either ineffective or downright dangerous. And no one, on any sort of media, may be more responsible for fueling vaccine aversion than Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

    Carlson seems to be feeling out the edges of the First Amendment each day, testing, probing, and practically daring anyone to do anything about it. In a way, Carlson is conducting an experiment, or challenge, like a diver plunging ever deeper into the sea without an oxygen tank. Only Carlson isn’t putting his own life at risk, or even his career—the Fox lawyers are surely standing by with stacks of paper and suitcases of money.

    No. It’s everyone else’s life that Carlson is endangering. And on Wednesday evening, he plunged to new depths.

    On his Wednesday program, Carlson again used his platform to push a variety of half truths and full bore lies concerning the vaccines. That included a statement that “3,362 people have died after getting the COVID vaccine in the United States.” He then extends this to “almost four thousand” after speculating over another 300-odd deaths not originally included. Carlson then helpfully breaks this down to “30 people a day” and then claims that the “actual number is almost certainly higher than that, perhaps vastly higher.”

    Of course, over 146 million people in the United States have gotten at least one shot, and over 106 million have been fully vaccinated. That last number includes more than 38 million people over the age of 65. In the United States, an average of 2.9 million people die each year—a mortality rate of 869.7 deaths per 100,000 people. Given that number, 1,269,762 people who have received the vaccine would be expected to die within a year of that vaccination for reasons that have nothing to do with the vaccine. So the number of vaccine recipients dying each day really should be “vastly higher” than 30. It should be more like 3,480. Because people die.

    […] If Carlson left his statement there, it would be simply incredibly deceptive. […] But Carlson didn’t stop there.

    After referencing an unconnected paper on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)—the apparent source of Carlson’s deceptive statistics—Carlson shows that, having been utterly disingenuous in one direction, he can pivot into being just as misleading in another. After popping off his “30 deaths a day” value, Carlson suggests that VAERS catches only 1% of vaccine events. Then … “So what is the real number of people who have been killed or injured by the vaccine? Well, we don’t know that number, nobody does, and we’re not going to speculate about it on this show.”

    […] Carlson never directly says that the vaccine is causing thousands of deaths a day. He just does everything he possibly can to plant that impression in the minds of his viewers.

    […] He’s scripting up statements that scare the crap out of people, and doing it in a way that is designed to leave him an easy retreat if a lawsuit or angry prosecutor should happen his way. This is a game he’s playing, one that’s utterly dependent on the broad protections of the First Amendment and the cushy depth of Fox’s legal team. […]

    In a nation where 100% of adults could be vaccinated and COVID-19 could genuinely be brought under control, over 46,000 people tested positive on Wednesday and 740 died—on top of the 3,400 who would have died normally. That’s the cost of the fun Carlson is having. […]

  79. says

    ‘Even as I write this it brings me to tears’: police officer Michael Fanone pens letter to Congress

    An officer who suffered a heart attack and concussion after being assaulted by a pro-Trump mob during the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection has written a letter to Congress describing his ongoing trauma. In his letter, shared Wednesday, Washington, D.C. Metropolitan police officer Michael Fanone urged officials to not only “fully recognize” the bravery of officers working that day but called those who downplayed the failed coup “disgraceful.”

    “In many ways I still live my life as if it is January 7, 2021,” Fanone said in a letter obtained first by CBS News. “I struggle daily with the emotional anxiety of having survived such a traumatic event but I also struggle with the anxiety of hearing those who continue to downplay the events of that day and those who would ignore them altogether with their lack of acknowledgment.”

    While Fanone did not name specific officials in his letter, this isn’t the first time he has called out elected officials for downplaying the events of Jan. 6. In a tear-jerking interview with CNN on April 27, Fanone publicly spoke of his experience during the Capitol insurrection for the first time in months. Multiple Republicans including former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ron Johnson have downplayed the insurrection by using language to make the events seem less serious.

    […] In an interview regarding his letter, Fanone told CBS News he is not looking for an award but wanted to describe the attack and those who defended democracy to individuals including elected officials. […]

    Read the entire letter below:

    To all elected members of the United States Government,

    My name is Michael Fanone and I have been a sworn officer with the Metropolitan Police Department for almost two decades. On January 06, 2021 I participated in the defense of the United States Capitol and as a result of my efforts was severely injured. I was pulled out into the crowd, away from my fellow officers, beaten with fists, metal objects, stripped of my issued badge, radio and ammunition magazine and electrocuted numerous times with a Taser. I am writing to you so that you may better understand my experience that day.

    I am assigned to the First District’s Crime Suppression Team and while my daily responsibilities involve combating violent crime and narcotics related offenses, I, like many other officers, took it upon myself to respond to the numerous calls for help coming from my colleagues at the Capitol Complex. Upon my arrival my partner, Jimmy Albright, and I searched for an area where we could be of most assistance and eventually found our way to the West Terrace Lower Tunnel entrance to the Capitol. The fighting here was nothing short of brutal. I observed approximately thirty police officers standing shoulder-to-shoulder maybe four or five abreast using the weight of their own bodies to hold back the onslaught of violent attackers. Many of these officers were injured, bleeding and fatigued but they continued to fight.

    In the midst of this fighting I observed Commander Ramey Kyle, cool calm and collected giving commands to his officers. “Hold the line.” It was the most inspirational moment of my entire life. Even as I write this it brings me to tears. I tried to render assistance to some of the injured officers asking them if they needed a break. There were no volunteers, only those that identified injured colleagues who may be in need of assistance. I have never experienced such bravery, courage and selflessness.

    Since then I have struggled with many aspects of that day. As the physical injuries gradually subsided in crept the psychological trauma. In many ways I still live my life as if it is January 07, 2021. I struggle daily with the emotional anxiety of having survived such a traumatic event but I also struggle with the anxiety of hearing those who continue to downplay the events of that day and those who would ignore them altogether with their lack of acknowledgment. The indifference shown to my colleagues and I is disgraceful.

    It has been 119 days since 850 Metropolitan Police (MPDC) Officers responded to the Capitol and stopped a violent insurrection from taking over the Capitol Complex saving countless Members of Congress and their staff from almost certain injury and even death. The time to fully recognize these Officers actions is NOW!

    Sincerely,

    Michael Fanone

  80. says

    Kushner Companies Violated Multiple Laws in Massive Tenant Dispute, Judge Rules

    The Kushner-owned management company charged “deceptive” fees to thousands of tenants.

    It’s been six years since Dionne Mont first saw her apartment at Fontana Village, a rental housing complex just east of Baltimore. She was aghast that day to find the front door coming off its hinges, the kitchen cabinet doors stuck to their frames, mouse droppings under the kitchen sink, mold in the refrigerator, the toilet barely functioning and water stains on every upstairs ceiling, among other problems. But she had already signed the lease and paid the deposit.

    Mont insisted that management make repairs, but that took several months, during which time she paid her $865 monthly rent and lived elsewhere. She was hit with constant late fees and so-called “court” fees, because the management company required tenants to pay rent at a Walmart or a check-cashing outlet, and she often couldn’t get there from her job as a bus driver before the 4:30 p.m. cutoff. She moved out in 2017.

    Four years later, Mont has received belated vindication: On April 29, a Maryland judge ruled that the management company, which is owned by Jared Kushner’s family real estate firm, violated state consumer laws in several areas, including by not showing tenants the actual units they were going to be assigned to prior to signing a lease, and by assessing them all manner of dubious fees. The ruling came after a 31-day hearing in which about 100 of the company’s current and former tenants, including Mont, testified.

    “I feel elated,” said Mont. “People were living in inhumane conditions—deplorable conditions.”

    […] The article revealed the company’s aggressive pursuit of current and former tenants in court over unpaid rent and broken leases, even in cases where tenants were in the right, as well as the shoddy conditions of many units.

    […] In her 252-page ruling last week, which was first reported by the Baltimore Sun, Daneker determined that the company had issued a relentless barrage of questionable fees on tenants over the course of many years, including both the fees identified in the 2017 article and others as well. In more than 15,000 instances, Westminster charged in excess of the state-maximum $25 fee to process a rental application. In more than 28,000 instances, the company also assessed a $12 “agent fee” on court filings against tenants even though it had incurred no such cost with the courts—a tactic that Daneker called “spurious” and which brought the company more than $332,000 in fees. And in more than 2,600 instances, the Kushner operation assessed $80 court fees to tenants at its two complexes within the city of Baltimore, even though the charge from the courts was only $50. “The practice of passing court costs on to tenants, in the absence of a court order,” Daneker wrote, “was deceptive.”

    […] In previous statements, the company had alleged that Frosh, a Democrat, had brought the suit for political reasons, and was singling out the company owned by the then-president’s son-in-law for a host of practices that the company said were common in the multi-housing rental industry. In her ruling, Daneker stated that she found no evidence of an “improper selective prosecution” in the suit.

    […] Despite the drawn-out process, including a three-month delay because of the pandemic, former tenants took satisfaction in the first judicial affirmation of their accounts of improper treatment. Kelly Ziegler, an orthodontic assistant, lived for two years in Highland Village, just south of Baltimore. She also didn’t get to see her unit before she moved in, in 2015, and was confronted with a litany of problems: a leak from the tub into the kitchen, a loose bedroom window that she worried her young child might fall out of, and a roach infestation so bad that she couldn’t use her stove. After some neighbor kids rolled a tire into her yard to use as a swing, she was fined $250 with no warning. “They did a lot of petty stuff,” she said.

    But when she asked to break her lease over the problems with the house, management warned her that they would take her to court. She finally got out of the lease in 2017.

    […] Kushner has of course since left the White House and moved to Florida. Ziegler now lives with her family on a dead-end street in southwest Baltimore. It’s near a high-crime strip where, not long ago, a 17-year-old friend of her daughter was fatally shot. But Ziegler is still glad to be out of Highland Village, out of Kushner’s reach.

    “I hope I don’t run into him,” she said.

  81. says

    Thread: For six+ years I covered @EliseStefanik @RepStefanik as closely as any journalist, following her through rural Upstate #adirondack towns in #ny21, watching her build political strength, visiting her in Washington DC. Here are my takeaways….”

    Interesting. “Reporting at @ncpr found however that she was eager to downplay her DC cred and her identity as a political insider. She claimed to have grown up in a rural #adirondacks community in #ny21. I couldn’t find anyone there who knew her.” Wikipedia says she was born in Albany (her parents own a plywood business) and attended a prep school there. The local Republican Party chair’s defense of her bullshit was that she “summered in Willsboro,” the small town where her parents have a vacation home.

  82. says

    Pfizer, BioNTech agree to send doses to vaccinate Olympic delegations

    Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have hatched an agreement with the Olympics’ governing body to help vaccinate participants in the Tokyo games set for July.

    Under the deal between the companies and the International Olympics Committee, they agreed to donate additional vaccine doses to ensure that those going to the games have access to them. Those shots will be separate from contracts already in place to secure doses for a country’s general populace and will be determined in coordination with individual countries’ Olympics organizations.

    “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” IOC President Thomas Bach said in a release on Thursday. “By taking the vaccine, they can send a powerful message that vaccination is not only about personal health, but also about solidarity and consideration of the wellbeing of others in their communities.” […]

  83. says

    Oh, dear. The wealthy have so many problems:

    Caitlyn Jenner, a Republican candidate for California governor, lamented on Wednesday that her wealthy friends were leaving the state in droves, recounting the story of one man who decided to pack up his private airplane hangar because he was tired of seeing homeless people.

    The remarks from Jenner came in her first major media appearance since announcing her gubernatorial bid last month: a sit-down interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity, conducted in Jenner’s own Malibu-area hangar.

    “My friends are leaving California,” Jenner said. “Actually, my hangar, the guy across … he was packing up his hangar. I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he says, ‘I’m moving to Sedona, Arizona. I can’t take it anymore. I can’t walk down the streets and see the homeless.’”

    “I don’t want to leave,” Jenner added. “Either I stay and fight, or I get out of here.”

    Jenner’s complaints about her friends’ exodus from California were criticized by some on social media as tone-deaf and unhelpful to her developing campaign. As of Thursday morning, “Sedona” was still trending on Twitter.

    The comments also seemingly undercut Republican efforts to portray Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is facing a recall election, as an elite career politician who remains out of touch with the state’s residents amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Jenner and other Republicans have particularly sought to highlight Newsom’s attendance last November at a multi-person birthday dinner at California’s upscale French Laundry restaurant, as Newsom was urging constituents to stay home and avoid congregating in groups.

    In her interview with Hannity, Jenner also offered praise for former President Donald Trump, describing him as a “disrupter” who “shook the system up” and saying she was “all for the wall” Trump pledged to construct separating the U.S. and Mexico. […]

    Jenner, a socialite and reality television personality, is herself one of the most high-profile transgender Americans and a former Olympic gold medal-winning decathlete. […]

    Jenner is opposed to allowing female transgender athletes to compete on all–girls school sports teams. Those transgender athletes are often children. They should not be punished.

  84. says

    Follow-up to comment 98.

    Wonkette: “Homeless People Just Ruining California For Caitlyn Jenner’s Private-Plane-Owning Friends”

    You know, when we talk about unhoused people, we’re always talking about the way not having homes affects them, or how we might be able to better help them. Few people are willing to stand up and discuss the way the existence of unhoused people hurts people who have homes — and even fewer are willing to stand up and discuss the way the existence of unhoused people hurts extremely rich people who not only have homes but who also have homes for their private planes.

    Certainly, most aspiring politicians would not have the courage to say that kind of thing out loud, on television.

    But not Caitlyn Jenner, the star of a long-running reality series about her very rich family, who is running for governor of California as a Republican and hoping to replace Gavin Newsom if he is recalled. Speaking last night to Sean Hannity, the gubernatorial hopeful discussed the impact of unhoused people on her very rich friends who find them aesthetically displeasing. Why must they be on the street? Why can’t they stay in their own private airplane hangers? […]

    Jenner did not explain what it was she planned on doing about the homelessness problem, though given her admiration of Donald Trump, she could very well go the Giuliani route and just arrest people for not having homes.

    The sight of homeless people should be upsetting. It is absolutely appalling that we live in a country where some people are Kardashians and Jenners, where some people have private planes, and other people don’t even have homes. It’s grotesque. If you are a person with a private plane, you should feel like the biggest asshole on earth walking past unhoused people. And if you move to Sedona to escape feeling that way, or because you find them aesthetically displeasing, then you are an even bigger asshole than you would be otherwise. […]

    It is an established fact that the most effective (and least expensive) way to help unhoused people is to … wait for it … give them a place to live. Perhaps, instead of moving to Sedona, people who have enough money to own private planes could pool some of their meager savings and buy up some houses where these people could live. That way, they could not only avoid whatever aesthetic issues they find displeasing, but they could feel slightly less like assholes.

    I have never actually seen the show, but my sister tells me that Caitlin was not always like this, and that in the first season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians she took the kids to a homeless shelter or something to help them understand that not everyone is as lucky as they are. Granted, there’s a lot that’s gross about using people’s real lives to teach your spoiled kids a lesson … but it certainly seems like a step up from “Homeless people are totally ruining the California vibe for my rich friends and now they have to move to Sedona to escape them!!”

    This was not Jenner’s only mention of plane travel. Later in the interview, she criticized those who want to build a high speed railway system from LA to San Francisco, because people can just get on a plane and fly between the two cities.

    That, however, would cost them upwards of $77, which is not actually something everyone can afford. Of course, it’s not surprising that Jenner is unclear on what it costs to fly commercial. Or what anything costs, really. […]

    Link

  85. blf says

    Lynna@99 quotes “[Caitlyn Jenner] criticized those who want to build a high speed railway system from LA to San Francisco, because people can just get on a plane and fly between the two cities.”

    As someone who used to live in several different California locations in-between those two cities — and despite ignoring the environmental and other costs of flying — that is exceptionally offensive. One of those locations is very unlikely to be on or “conveniently” close to a high speed rail line, but all the other locations are very (in most cases, very very) likely. Living in Europe, and particularly here in France with its high-speed TGV, any (putative) flying is now limited to destinations where trains cannot go, and so on.

  86. blf says

    A bill aims to stop abusers stalking ex-partners. US telecom firms are lobbying against it:

    […]
    The top lobby group for the US wireless industry is quietly seeking to weaken proposed legislation that has been designed to protect victims of domestic violence by allowing them to remove themselves from family phone plans.

    […]

    At the centre of the dispute lies an effort by members of Congress to tackle what victims’ advocates say is a major issue in helping victims leave abusive relationships: getting out of a family mobile phone plan that can give abusers, the vast majority of whom are men, a dangerous level of access to a victim’s network of support, from friends to family to their workplace.

    Sources familiar with the matter say that the CTIA, a Washington-based lobby group that calls itself the “voice of America’s wireless industry” has been lobbying behind the scenes for a change in language in the proposed legislation that would protect the companies from lawsuits and enforcement by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

    The sources say that such a change would, in effect, make the law voluntary, because it would make it impossible for regulators to enforce the law or for the companies to be held accountable in civil litigation if they failed to comply.

    […]

    The Safe Connections Act was introduced by the Democratic senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii in January. It unanimously passed the commerce committee last week, winning bipartisan support. If passed into law, the proposal would allow survivors to exit a shared family phone plan […] within 48 hours of making the request. Any children in the care of the survivor would also be removed from the contract.

    […]

    It would also have cellphone companies remove domestic abuse hotlines from call and text records and provide survivors temporary access to the FCC program for discount phone service for low-income people, Lifeline.

    Cornell University’s Clinic to End Tech Abuse (Ceta) has been a driving force in the legislation and researchers there said a priority is making sure the final legislation has as few hurdles as possible for survivors who don’t want to share private information with their mobile company.

    […]

    As of August, at least one company charged up to $350 per line to leave the contract, according to a letter sent that month to Congress from anti-domestic violence, civil liberties and consumer privacy organizations. People seeking to exit these plans may also still be required to cover the cost of the device if it was being paid for in installments.

    […]

    The domestic abuse supporters & profiteers named in the article include Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T Wireless (i.e., the usual suspects).

  87. says

    blf @100, good points. I am finding every word that Caitlyn Jenner utters offensive.

    In other news that is also about offensive and clueless people, (namely Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman): NY AG James Wants In On Lawsuit Against Wohl And Burkman Over Racist Robocall

    New York’s attorney general wrote to a federal judge on Thursday, asking to be tagged into an ongoing lawsuit against the right-wing hucksters Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, who allegedly sent robocalls targeting Black voters in an attempt to suppress voter turnout ahead of the 2020 election.

    The lawsuit, filed in October by the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, focuses on a robocall that falsely warned thousands of recipients in several states that voting by-mail could be used against them — specifically, by sharing personal information with law enforcement pursuing old warrants, credit card companies pursuing debtors and public health officials seeking to administer “mandatory vaccines.”

    “Don’t be finessed into giving your private information to the man, stay home safe and beware of vote by mail,” said a voice on the robocall, claiming to be “Tamika Taylor from 1599 Project.”

    The robocall is already at the heart of two criminal cases against the duo — in Michigan, they face felony charges of conspiracy to violate election law, among other offenses. In Ohio, they’ve separately been indicted on eight counts of telecommunications fraud and seven counts of bribery. They’ve pleaded not guilty in both cases.

    New York Attorney General Letitia James, in her request to intervene in the civil suit Thursday, alleged that it specifically targeted Black voters. She cited the pair’s own communications.

    “We should send it to black neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Richmond, Atlanta and Cleveland,” Wohl allegedly wrote to Burkman in an email that included the audio file for the call.

    The next day, after the calls were sent to thousands of people, Burkman allegedly emailed Wohl, “i love these robo calls…getting angry black call backs…win or lose…the black robo was just a great jw idea.”

    In late October, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero issued a temporary restraining order barring Wohl or Burkman from sending further such robocalls, and further ordered them to send a corrective call with the following script:

    “At the direction of a United States district court, this call is intended to inform you that a federal court has found that the message you previously received regarding mail-in voting from Project 1599 contained false information that has had the effect of intimidating voters, and thus interfering with the upcoming presidential election, in violation of federal voting-rights laws.”

    “Wohl and Burkman used misinformation to try to disenfranchise Black communities ahead of the election, in a clear attempt to sway the election in the favor of their preferred presidential candidate,” James said in a statement Thursday.

    […] James proposed complaint also targets a telecom provider, Message Communications, Inc., and its owner Robert Mahanian, who Burkman and Wohl allegedly hired to send their robocall across the country. The call, according to the New York attorney general’s office, was sent to 85,000 phone numbers nationally, including 5,500 with New York area codes.

    […] “Message Communications worked with Wohl and Burkman to target specific zip codes to maximize the threatening effects the robocall would have on Black voters in New York and other large metropolitan areas.” […]

    Wohl and Burkman, working through Burkman’s lobbying firm and the purported “Project 1599” organization, “concocted a racist campaign that trafficked in stereotypes and spread lies and deception all for their shared goal of intimidating voters and depressing voter turnout to disrupt a presidential election,” the proposed complaint read.

    […] Burkman admitted during an October hearing in the civil suit that “Yes, that is our call,” the proposed New York complaint noted.

    The purported voice on the other end of the robocall — “Tamika Taylor” — may have been a reference to the police killing of Breonna Taylor: Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, was often misidentified in the media as Tamika Taylor. […]

    The proposed New York suit seeks permanent injunctions preventing Wohl and Burkman from further engaging in unlawful robocalls directed at voters, among other steps including a financial penalty of $500 for each violation of New York civil rights law committed against New Yorkers who received the robocall.

  88. says

    Follow-up to comment 102.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    “among other steps including a financial penalty of $500 for each violation of New York civil rights law committed against New Yorkers who received the robocall.”

    5500 NY calls mentioned, that’s $2.75 million. That’ll leave a mark, and will leave them without resources for further shenanigans. But stick their sorry asses in jail anyways. It’s the only deterrent that matters with white collar criminals and political operative wannabes.
    ————————————
    “David M. Schwartz, an attorney for the defendants, told TPM that “This case is nothing more than a furtherance of the cancel culture movement and that only people holding a certain opinion have a right to be heard.”

    “If you listen to the calls, there is nothing threatening about any of the calls,” Schwartz asserted. “We will fight this case in court and we look forward to a trial challenging all of these fictional claims.”

    Yeah,…this sounds like a total trumpian “attorney” who wouldn’t be able to defend his way out a paper bag. Pro tip: any “attorney” that uses cancel culture as part of a defense, stiff them on their payment.
    ————————————
    Hell, even James O’Keefe would be embarrassed by their ineptitude. The unzipped fly press conference was one of the high points of the MAGA era.
    ———————————–
    My favorite Wohl/Burkman meltdown was the former Marine turned male escort they’d paid to tarnish Elizabeth Warren as one of his SMBD clients who just couldn’t keep a straight face while reading his scripted lines on the front steps of Burkman’s house.
    ————————————
    Jesus, those emails. They may as well have written, “I’m glad we’re guilty of voter suppression, aren’t you?”

  89. says

    Oh, dear. Talk about Republican cluelessness:

    Whether or not you’re closely versed in Colorado state politics, you’ve likely heard of Colorado state Rep. Richard Holtorf. For example, while speaking to the Denver Post, Holtorf identified himself as having had a Black, gay friend in college as a defense when called out for downplaying a Black colleague’s concerns about racism at the Colorado Capitol. In February, Holtorf also told a colleague he should “let go” of his son’s murder. Disturbing no matter what, of course, but this colleague’s son, Alex Sullivan, was killed during the Aurora movie theater shooting.

    As seen in a clip quickly going viral, the colleague in question—Democratic state Rep. Tom Sullivan—is unafraid to call out Holtorf’s inappropriate and offensive comments. What did Holtorf say this time? While speaking on the House floor about an amendment to a bill he proposed, Holtorf was seemingly interrupted by a colleague and said, “I’m getting there; don’t worry, Buckwheat, I’m getting there.” Perhaps picking up the absolute horror of the room, he added, “That’s an endearing term, by the way.” Then Sullivan confronted him.

    Holtorf repeatedly asked Sullivan why he was “yelling” at him, in just about the most typical reaction you might imagine coming from someone who just slurred a colleague and tried to play it off as a term of endearment. Back and forths became so heated, so fast, that Democratic state Rep. Leslie Herod had to diffuse the situation after another colleague had to try and hold Holtorf back and wave him away from the mic. Unsurprisingly, the session was called into recess.

    You’re probably wondering: Who was Holtorf referring to as “buckwheat”? We don’t know. What we do know, as Stephen A. Crocket Jr. pointed out at The Root, is that “white people don’t call other white people ‘Buckwheat.’” [video is available at the link]

    […] Surprising no one, when Holtorf returned to the floor, he offered a meager apology, stating, “I apologize if I’ve offended anybody in any way. It is not my intent, ladies and gentlemen. If anyone would like to talk to me afterward, I’d be more than happy to visit with them,” […]

    Link

  90. says

    A summary of fiascos associated with the Cyber Ninjas ballot recount in Arizona:

    […] * Observers reported that the ballot auditors were using black- and blue-ink pens on the counting floor. These are banned in real recounts, because they can obviously be used to alter ballots and change votes. Organizers had to scramble to procure the customary red pens instead.

    • Both ballots and computers used in the audit procedure have been left unattended at times, raising the possibility that they could have been tampered with.

    • There are no fixed procedures for doing the counting. Ballots are being evaluated according to varying standards depending on which workers are doing it and when.

    • Observers have warned of a possible intermingling of counted and uncounted ballots, which could result in ballots being counted multiple times or not at all.

    • Cyber Ninjas claim that their methods of counting ballots are a trade secret, and thus has refused to divulge their procedures. A judge has declared that to be absolute bullshit, in the very real and legally binding sense, and ordered them to produce it.

    As a result of those court battles, we now know that while the private auditing team had no apparent standards for evaluating how the ballots should actually be counted, once they got to the actual counting part, they did spend considerable time gaming out what would be done if antifa attacked the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in an attempt to ruin their counting efforts.

    […] “somebody is going to end up in jail by the end of this, and it’s not going to be antifa.”

    Actual non-seditionist authorities are, after two weeks of this bumbling, now paying close attention. The potentially criminal incompetence in how Arizona voters’ official ballots are being handled has resulted in the Arizona secretary of state, a Democrat, penning a six-page letter asking the Senate’s appointed “Audit Liaison” what they intend to do to rein in this clown show, only to be quickly rebuffed by clown management.

    More ominously for the audit’s backers, the Department of Justice is now warning the Arizona Senate that its audit appears to be breaking federal laws. […] [See SC’s comment 80]

    Already, then, we have at least one sure outcome of this Republican-ordered, propaganda-premised audit: These Arizona ballots will never be able to be recounted again, because chain-of-custody concerns and incompetent ballot handling has resulted in ample opportunities for just the sort of crooked ballot tampering the auditors claim they themselves are looking for. […]

    In any case, this truly is a ballot “audit” unlike any government-conducted election audit in modern U.S. history. In exchange for spoiling every presidential ballot in Arizona, what crack tools are being brought to bear by the hired team now “checking” the ballots for evidence of conspiracy?

    • Holding them up to UV light. This is, um, never actually done in real audits, but is ostensibly being used by this team to check for fingerprints on each ballot, with some theorists speculating that all of the ballots on which such traces of bodily fluids are not readily apparent may have been mass-produced by robot and dumped into the ballot stream “somehow.”

    • Looking under microscopes to determine the manner in which they were folded, if they were folded. This one’s a stumper, but apparently hand-folded and machine folded ballots would look different, under a microscope, enabling the crack Ninja team of “whoever we could find” to sort them into human piles and robot shenanigans piles.

    • Looking for bamboo fibers in the ballots.

    No, really. I am not f–king making that up.

    In an interview, volunteer observer John Brakey explained that one piece of equipment is meant to take high-definition images of the ballots to test for “bamboo in the paper.” This is because there is an insurrection-backing conspiracy theory that supposes “that 40,000 ballots were flown into Arizona and stuffed into the box, okay, and that it came from” Asia. Obviously, the way to test this theory is to look carefully to see if any of the ballots have “bamboo” in them. Or pandas. Or fragments of communist literature. Mostly the bamboo, though.

    So after the ballots are tested for Suspicious Asian Bamboo, what tests are next? […]

    The Senate Republican audit of Donald Trump’s election loss appears, literally, to be a carte blanche means of poking at the ballots to test any and all conspiracy theories any anonymous brickhead on the planet ever tweeted out in the past six months.

    The premise of the audit, at least according to the Republican sedition-backers justifying it, is that if this collection of incompetent, inexperienced yahoos can find no bamboo fibers or robot sperm on the ballots even after a comprehensive regime of whatever, it will reinstall “confidence” in the election that they have lied about since last November. A more likely scenario might be that the Cyber Ninjas collection of Some Guys will file a report declaring that they still believe trickery was afoot, but the plot between Communist China and sexy robots was simply too complicated to unravel in the limited time available.

    […] The ballot free-for-all is scheduled to end on May 14, because the Veterans Memorial Coliseum has been booked next for the Phoenix Union High School District’s graduation ceremonies. […] the conspiracy team is already trying to weasel out of that deadline by proposing that, like, what if we just move the ballots into some other room so the high schoolers can graduate, then move them back. […]

    The Arizona Senate will simply declare that the results are whatever they wanted them to be, much like William Barr announced that Robert Mueller’s conclusions were whatever William Barr said they were. The propaganda is the strategy; the goal is to stoke the notion that elections not won by the Republican Party are illegitimate […] It is a fascist movement; the insurrection is still going on.

    Link

  91. blf says

    Giant sturgeon caught in Detroit River may be 100 years old:

    […]
    The US Fish and Wildlife Service received quite a big surprise last week, when they caught a giant fish, estimated to be more than 100 years old, in the Detroit River.

    The 240-pound lake sturgeon was caught by a three-person crew on 22 April, just south of Detroit near Grosse Ile. The agency described the huge fish, which measured almost 7ft long, as “a real life river monster”.

    […]

    The agency said it quickly released the fish back into the river after it was weighed and measured.

    Wigren recalled thinking at the time that capturing the sturgeon would result in “a real good fish story”.

    “She was tired out and didn’t fight us very much,” Wigren said. “Imagine everything that fish has lived through and seen.”

    […]

    Anglers can keep one sturgeon per year, but only if the fish is a certain size and is caught in a few state waters. All sturgeon caught in the Detroit River must be released.

    […]

    Whilst in California, ‘They’re chilling’: endangered condors take up residence outside California woman’s home:

    […]
    Giant California condors are rare — but not at Cinda Mickols’ home.

    More than 15 condors, an endangered bird whose population hovers at around 160 in the state and under 500 in the US, have recently taken a liking to Mickol’s house in Tehachapi […]

    Mickols’ daughter, Seana Quintero, began posting photos of the rowdy guests on Twitter on Tuesday, documenting her mom’s encounters with the creatures.

    […]

    On twittering, Ms Quintero observed, “Still wild to me that in my lifetime there went from being about 25 condors left alive to now almost that many descending on my moms house at once. Makes me wonder if we will start seeing more giant flocks as their numbers rise (I’ve only ever seen 3–4 by her house before)”.

    I’m jealous! Some of my relatives used to live in that very area, and I never never saw a California condor. In fact, the only live one I’ve ever seen was an individual at the LA Zoo who had become habituated to humans and could never be released into the wild.

    The twitterings make clear Ms Mickols is well aware they are a very endangered bird, and she will not (intentionally) harm them. Not all of the twittering commentators are so clewed-in, however…

  92. says

    Follow-up to SC’s comment 79.

    Some journalists have postulated that Ron DeSantis signed the Florida voter-suppression bill on Fox News because he is desperate for Trump’s attention.

    There’s sucking up to Donald Trump and then there’s this: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took it to the next level on Thursday morning when he not only signed a voter suppression bill inspired by Trump’s election lies, he turned the event at which he signed the bill into a Fox News exclusive. And not just Fox News—specifically Trump’s favorite show, Fox & Friends.

    The signing had an audience of hundreds of supporters of DeSantis and Trump, but all the reporters other than Fox were shut out.

    […] Turning the signing into a spectacle for Fox News really shows off the partisan intent here. DeSantis has praised how well Florida’s 2020 elections were run—elections in which 40% of voters used mail ballots—yet his embrace of Trump’s election lies is so complete that he wanted to make extra certain Trump saw that Republicans in the state were pivoting their laws around those lies. And how better to make sure Trump notices something than to put it on Fox & Friends? This law is equal parts about making it more difficult for Democratic-leaning groups to vote—a longtime Republican goal—and about showing loyalty to Trump through embrace of his claims that they only reason he lost is because of a rigged election. […]

    DeSantis is showing his determination to be Trump’s favorite special boy, but what does he think the endgame is? […] if Trump does run in 2024, DeSantis functionally can’t be his vice presidential pick unless one of the men changes his residency from Florida, because electors cannot vote for both a president and a vice president from their own states, and Florida’s electoral votes are kind of a big deal. Do you think Trump is going to bother changing residency for someone else’s political ambitions?

    But wherever DeSantis thinks his own personal political ambitions are going, the voter suppression law he just signed is another case of Republicans going to the extreme both to rig elections in their own favor at whatever cost to representative democracy, and to show their fealty to Trump despite the electoral losses he brought to their party.

  93. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz:

    A defiant Donald J. Trump is urging his supporters to follow him on Facebook Total Landscaping, a new social network he has created.

    “Facebook Total Landscaping will be the biggest social network in the world, way bigger than what that loser Zuckerberg came up with,” he said. “No one’s on Facebook.”

    Trump said that his new social-media platform, which will operate out of a parking lot outside Philadelphia, will be run by his former attorney Rudolph Giuliani, “so you know it’s going to be terrific.”

    “Rudy’s out buying a computer right now,” he said. “He had to replace the one that the F.B.I. took last week.”

    Boasting about his social network’s explosive growth, Trump said that he had already friended Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner, and was waiting to hear back on a friend request to Melania Trump.

    New Yorker link

  94. says

    The Daily Beast:

    A Utah man [Landon Kenneth Copeland] accused of assaulting police officers during the Capitol riots invited several of his MAGA friends to his Thursday court appearance—then wreaked havoc during the hearing, screaming at the judge and court officials to “come f*** with me.”

    A few more disturbing details:

    […] The second he was taken off mute, Copeland began to scream, “I’m going to tell the truth.”

    “I don’t like you people… you’re a robot to me… you can’t come get me if I don’t want you to… Fuck all of you… Fuck all of you,” he shouted during his tirade, at which point a judge put him in a separate Zoom room so that he could no longer interrupt the proceeding. “I wanna talk in open court you mother fuckers!”

    Earlier in the hearing, Copeland also told a court clerk, “You are evil!” and asked, “At what point am I a free individual versus a pre-trial confinement individual?” “Is any of this negotiable? I used to be a free man…until you locked me up,” Copeland insisted. […]

    When federal authorities interviewed Copeland on Feb. 11, he admitted he went to a rally in D.C. to support President Donald Trump—and that he fought with officers outside the Capitol.

    Copeland then allegedly insisted that he felt “police officers were trying to ‘penetrate the line’ of the protesters and ‘steal’ individual members of the crowd, including one person who Copeland described as having been shot in the face by an officer.” Copeland, who insisted he did not enter the Capitol, was seemingly referring to Ashli Babbitt, one of the five individuals who died as a result of the siege.]

    […] “I guess peacefully protesting at the Capitol is now illegal and they are trying to hunt us all down to try and teach us a lesson. Unfortunately, only one option remains when we return. We bring guns and take the Capitol building without intention of being peaceful. This ends with the government bombing their own people. I had hopes it wouldn’t. But here we are.”

  95. says

    Washington Post:

    About 54 percent of schools that serve the nation’s kindergarten through eighth grades have reopened, according to an Education Department survey, fulfilling a promise that President Biden made to reopen more than half of schools within 100 days.

  96. says

    Guardian – “Rio de Janeiro: at least 25 killed in city’s deadliest police raid on favela”:

    At least 25 people have been killed after heavily armed police stormed one of Rio de Janeiro’s largest favelas in pursuit of drug traffickers, in what was the deadliest raid in the city’s history.

    About 200 members of Rio’s civil police launched their incursion into Jacarezinho in the early hours of Thursday, sprinting into the vast redbrick community as a bullet-proof helicopter circled overhead with snipers poised on each side. By lunchtime at least 25 people were reported dead, among them André Frias, a drug squad officer who was shot in the head. Police and local media described the other victims as “suspects” but offered no immediate evidence for that claim.

    Photographs and videos taken by residents and shared with the Guardian showed bloodied corpses splayed out in the favela’s narrow alleyways and beside the heavily polluted river from which Jacarezinho takes its name. The lifeless body of one young man had been propped up on a purple plastic garden chair, with one finger placed inside his mouth.

    Police officials and their cheerleaders in Rio’s tabloid press celebrated the mission as an essential attack on the drug gangs who have for decades used the favelas as their bases. “It would be great if the police could launch two operations like this every day to free Rio de Janeiro from the traffickers, or at least reduce their power,” the host of Balanço Geral, a popular television crime show, told viewers saluting what he called the “surgical” strike.

    But there was outrage from human rights activists and public security specialists as the scale of the carnage became clear.

    “It’s extermination – there’s no other way to describe it,” said Pedro Paulo Santos Silva, a researcher from Rio’s Centre for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship. “This was a massacre.”

    Pablo Nunes, a public security expert from the same group, said the assault had claimed more lives than one of the most notorious slaughters in Rio’s history: the 1993 Vigário Geral massacre in which 21 people were shot dead when police rampaged through a favela just north of Jacarezinho. “It is unbelievable, despicable,” said Nunes.

    Joel Luiz Costa, a Jacarezinho-born lawyer and activist, said that in more than three decades in the favela he had never seen such bloodshed. “It was a complete slaughter,” said Costa, who shared disturbing images of the aftermath on social media. “Today was frightening even for those of us who work with public security … The only conclusion you can draw is that in the favelas there is no democracy.”

    Located in north Rio, a 20-minute drive from Ipanema beach, Jacarezinho is home to tens of thousands of working-class Brazilians and has long been a bastion of one of Brazil’s most important criminal organizations, the Red Command.

    Rio’s decades-long war on drugs – which has intensified since the mid-1980s and claims thousands of lives each year – has done nothing to change that reality, with Jacarezinho’s streets policed by the gang’s rifle-toting gunmen and barricaded with concrete blocks and barricades improvised from train tracks.

    Thursday’s raid, which police said was to prevent children and teenagers being lured into crime, took place despite a supreme court order last June outlawing such incursions during the coronavirus pandemic. The number of police operations in the favelas fell dramatically after that decision but has been increasing again since last October. Recently released figures show police killed 797 people in Rio state between June last year and March, the overwhelming majority in or around the capital.

    Santos Silva said his city’s war on drugs was effective when it came to killing but did nothing to protect citizens or reduce crime. “It’s repugnant,” he said of the photographs showing Jacarezinho’s streets littered with dead bodies.

    “Irrespective of whether they were ‘traffickers’ or residents, these are lives, these are bodies – somebody’s child, somebody’s brother,” Santos Silva added. “There’s no way of looking at these photos and not wanting to cry over just how sick our society i[s].”

  97. says

    Here’s a link to the May 7 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    WHO warns of new Covid wave in Africa

    The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a new wave of Covid-19 infections in Africa due to delayed vaccine supplies, a slow rollout and new variants, AFP reports.

    The African bureau of the UN agency said the continent had to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of vaccine rollouts.

    “The delay in the delivery of vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India earmarked for Africa, the delay in the deployment of vaccines and the emergence of new variants means that the risk of a new wave of infections remains very high in Africa,” it said in a statement.

    It added that new variants such as the ones that emerged in India and South Africa could unleash a “third wave” on the continent.

    Africa now accounts for only one percent of vaccine doses administered globally, the WHO said – down from two percent a few weeks ago, as other regions’ rollouts are progressing much faster.

    The first vaccines deliveries to 41 African countries under the Covax scheme began in March but nine countries have so far administered only a quarter of the doses received, while 15 countries have used less than half of their allocations.

    The vaccination rate in Africa is the world’s lowest. Globally an average of 150 vaccine doses per 1,000 people have been administered, but in sub-Saharan Africa it is hardly eight doses per 1,000, according to the WHO.

    India cases rise by world record 414,188

    India on Friday reported a record daily rise in coronvirus cases of 414,188, while deaths from Covid-19 swelled by 3,915, according to health ministry data.

    India’s total coronavirus infections now stand at 21.49 million, while its total fatalities have reached 234,083. The South Asian nation has added 1.57 million cases and nearly 500 deaths this week alone.

  98. blf says

    No one wants to work anymore: the truth behind this unemployment benefits myth:

    US employees are concerned about safety, others have caregiving responsibilities and some are using their job loss as an opportunity to find other work

    At restaurants across the country […] the same sign is popping up: “We are short staffed. Please be patient with the staff that did show up. No one wants to work anymore.”[]

    The implication is that the federal government’s expanded unemployment benefits of $300 each week are keeping people at home instead of behind cash registers and in fast food kitchens.

    [… W]hat’s happening is a feature, not a bug, of the US economic system and the blame can’t entirely be placed on a $300 weekly check.

    University of Pennsylvania economist, Ioana Marinescu, said: “In the absence of the benefits there would probably be a little bit more applications and hiring would be a little bit easier, but the main drive of the recent change in sentiment is that hiring is accelerating.”

    […]

    If job openings accelerate faster than people apply for work, there will be pain for business owners. The pandemic has added some quirks to this economic reality.

    It is true that a sliver of people would rather stay home for a few months making as much, or more, from unemployment than they would defrosting meat patties or answering phones.

    But would-be employees are also concerned about safety — 46% of the population hasn’t received a single vaccine dose and the spread of Covid-19 is uncontrolled in the US. Potential employees also have caregiving responsibilities: this recession has disproportionately affected women, who largely take up these duties and in late March more than half of schools were still doing remote learning or a combination of remote and in-person classes.

    [… using the time to obtain education / training / other skills…]

    Unemployment benefits have also allowed out of work people to help support the economy.

    University of Chicago researchers found that the unemployment expansion of $600 a week in 2020 allowed people to spend money in a way they wouldn’t without it. That means some of the same businesses complaining about hiring might not earn as much money without unemployment.

    […]

      † I dithered about setting that sign in eejit quotes, but decided the request to be patient was very reasonable (albeit unfortunate it has to be said), vastly outweighing the nonsensical No one wants to work anymore assertion.

  99. says

    BBC – “Big Chinese rocket segment set to fall to Earth”:

    Debris from a Chinese rocket is expected to fall back to Earth in an uncontrolled re-entry this weekend.

    The main segment from the Long March-5b vehicle was used to launch the first module of China’s new space station last month.

    At 18 tonnes it is one of the largest items in decades to have an undirected dive into the atmosphere.

    The US on Thursday said it was watching the path of the object but currently had no plans to shoot it down.

    “We’re hopeful that it will land in a place where it won’t harm anyone,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said. “Hopefully in the ocean, or someplace like that.”

    Various space debris modelling experts are pointing to late Saturday or early Sunday (GMT) as the likely moment of re-entry. However, such projections are always highly uncertain.

    Originally injected into an elliptical orbit approximately 160km by 375km above Earth’s surface on 29 April, the Long March-5b core stage has been losing height ever since.

    Just how quickly the core’s orbit will continue to decay will depend on the density of air it encounters at altitude and the amount of drag this produces. These details are poorly known.

    Most of the vehicle should burn up when it makes its final plunge through the atmosphere, although there is always the possibility that metals with high melting points, and other resistant materials, could survive to the surface.

    When a similar core stage returned to Earth a year ago, piping assumed to be from the rocket was identified on the ground in Ivory Coast, Africa.

    The chances of anyone actually being hit by a piece of space junk are very small, not least because so much of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean, and because that part which is land includes huge areas that are uninhabited.

    China has bridled at the suggestion that it has been negligent in allowing the uncontrolled return of so large an object. Commentary in the country’s media has described Western reports about the potential hazards involved as “hype” and predicted the debris will likely fall somewhere in international waters.

    The Global Times quoted aerospace expert Song Zhongping who added that China’s space monitoring network would keep a close watch and take necessary measures should damage occur.

    But the respected cataloguer of space activity, Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, US, said the situation did reflect poorly on China.

    “It is indeed seen as negligence,” he told BBC News.

    “This is the second launch of this rocket; the debris in Ivory Coast last year was from the previous launch, i.e. a basically identical rocket.

    “These two incidents [the one now and the Ivory Coast one] are the two largest objects deliberately left to re-enter uncontrolled since Skylab in 1979.”

    Fragments of the US space station Skylab scattered across Western Australian in 1979, attracting worldwide attention.

    Hugh Lewis, who models space debris at Southampton University, UK, noted that more than 60 years of spaceflight had left a large legacy of junk in orbit. The responsibility for this litter rests on several countries, but principally Russia and the US.

    “It’s worth remembering that there are approximately 900 orbital rocket stages in low-Earth orbit, left behind by nearly every launch-capable nation and with a combined mass orders or magnitude greater than the one expected to re-enter the atmosphere this [weekend],” Dr Lewis posted on Twitter.

    Modern practice now calls for rocket stages to be de-orbited as soon as possible after their mission….

  100. says

    Peter Hotez:

    Today was a rough, more than most. The website [N-t-r-l N-ws] called on their followers to contact me, providing contact info phones emails, comparing me to Mengele sending image after image of Nuremberg. Then Sharyl Attkisson endorsed it on her website. This was my 1st email today…

  101. blf says

    Shane Vaughn Ordains His Followers as Evangelists of the Trump Revival:

    Radical right-wing pastor Shane Vaughn […], reacting to the news that Facebook’s Oversight Board had upheld the company’s decision to ban [hair furor …], actually thought the decision was a good thing, declaring that Facebook made the same mistake that Satan made when he killed Jesus Christ.

    Vaughn [bleated …] it will now be up to patriots to become evangelists of the Trump revival by taking the messages Trump posts on his website and reposting them to their own social media accounts.

    [… more gibberish…]

  102. says

    HuffPo – “Lawyer Says Capitol Defendant Had ‘Foxmania’ From Watching Too Much Fox News”:

    A Capitol defendant who bought into former President Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen election came down with “Foxitus” and “Foxmania” after watching too much Fox News, his attorney told a court on Thursday.

    Anthony Antonio’s attorney told a D.C. magistrate judge that after Antonio was laid off because of the coronavirus pandemic last year, he spent all his time living in a home with four other individuals who watched a lot of Fox News.

    “For the next approximate six months, Fox television played constantly,” lawyer Joseph Hurley said. “He became hooked with what I call ‘Foxitus’ or ‘Foxmania’ and became interested in the political aspect and started believing what was being fed to him.”

    Another Capitol defendant on the Zoom hearing, Landon Copeland, soon interrupted Hurley and objected to him disparaging the former president. (Copeland continued interrupting the proceeding over the next several hours, and the judge eventually ordered a competency hearing).

    Hurley, whom the Wilmington, Delaware-based News Journal described as an attorney “known for his bravado and courtroom theatrics,” said that Antonio believed he was following Trump’s orders to march on Washington and that he was taking part in what he saw as a patriotic movement to serve the United States.

    Antonio surrendered to police in Delaware last month. He was charged with five federal crimes linked to his presence at the Jan. 6 riot: knowingly entering or remaining on restricted grounds without lawful authority, violent entry and disorderly conduct, impeding law enforcement during civil disorder, disrupting Congress and damaging government property.

    In several videos, he was seen among the mob at the Lower West Terrace Entrance of the Capitol building, which “saw a tremendous amount of violent criminal activity” that day, according to an FBI affidavit.

    In one video captured on a police body-worn camera, Antonio shouted at officers, “You want war? We got war. 1776 all over again.”

    He wore a black tactical bulletproof vest adorned with a far-right “Three Percenter” patch, a camouflage shirt, and had a tattoo of the words “Carpe Diem” on his right wrist, the affidavit said.

    Antonio is accused of climbing the scaffolding outside the Capitol, entering the building through a broken window, obtaining a riot shield and gas mask, threatening police and squirting water at Michael Fanone, the police officer who was dragged down a set of stairs by rioters and repeatedly tased and beaten.

    In an interview with federal authorities in February, Antonio said he locked eyes with Fanone, who begged for help. He said he could see “death in the man’s eyes” and would not be able to get the image of the officer out of his head….

  103. says

    SC @113, this part of the text you quoted was one of the first things I thought of when I started reading about the raid: “Thursday’s raid, which police said was to prevent children and teenagers being lured into crime, took place despite a supreme court order last June outlawing such incursions during the coronavirus pandemic.”

    Yep, looks like slaughter. Looks like no due process was observed. And it looks like a good way to spread coronavirus.

  104. says

    blf @120, it was also funny that the cartoon dog noted that we can all still join an insurrection after we get vaccinated and stop Covid transmission. (paraphrasing)

  105. says

    Whoops! Comment 124 was in reference to comment 112.

    Bits and pieces of other news:

    * Texas Democrats fought as long as they could, but in the early hours of this morning, Texas Republicans advanced a new voter-suppression bill. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to sign it.

    * In a huge surprise, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D) has decided not to seek re-election this fall. It’s a rather dramatic reversal for a rising star in Democratic politics who’d already begun raising money for her campaign, including hold an event with President Biden.

    * We can now add Ohio to the list of states where Republican legislators are eyeing new voting restrictions.

    * Virginia Republicans are scheduled to hold their nominating convention tomorrow to choose the party’s candidates for 2021 statewide races. We may not get the results for a while.

    * In Arizona, Republican Senate hopeful Jim Lamon, hoping to take on Sen. Mark Kelly (D) next year, has criticized federal COVID relief spending, despite the fact that his company received $2.6 million in relief aid last year. [hypocrite!]

    * And while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is on record saying she intends to step down as Speaker at the end of the current Congress, even if Democrats are able to maintain their majority, yesterday she seemed to hedge on the question. “Well, let’s take it one step at a time,” Pelosi said during a PBS interview.

    Link

    Nobody is as good at that job as Nancy Pelosi.

  106. blf says

    Dough to go: Rome’s first pizza vending machine gets mixed reviews:

    […]
    Located in a booth on Via Catania, close to Piazza Bologna in Rome, Mr Go Pizza offers up four varieties, […] each costing between €4.50 and €6. The vending machine kneads and tops the dough, a process that customers can watch through a small glass window.

    It started operating on 6 April and has since sold about 900 pizzas, which are delivered in a box and with cutlery.

    The concept has been met with a mix of curiosity and incredulity from Roman pizza-lovers in a city filled with street food outlets serving pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice).

    […]

    Sebastiano Di Troia, who owns a pizza al taglio shop nearby, is taking the new rival in his stride. He honed his pizza-making skills at a pizza school in Rome and says his is “true Roman pizza”. The dough he uses is fermented for 72 hours, a process used in traditional pizza-making that gives the product its flavour and crunch.

    “The difference is in the taste — you go and try one from the machine, and then come back here and try a real one,” said Di Troia.

    There was an attempt to do just that, but by the time the Guardian returned to the Mr Go Pizza booth, the machine was not functioning properly […]

    “Pizza vending machine” — three words that never go together, like “Peas are edible”. Or a candy vending machine churning out Mike Gaetz clones.

  107. says

    For Lindsey Graham, allegiance to Trump is entirely transactional

    For Lindsey Graham, if Donald Trump can be used as a tool to win elections and benefit his party, nothing else matters.

    One of the weirdest political relationships of the last several years is Sen. Lindsey Graham’s fidelity to Donald Trump. Part of the oddity of their connection is how difficult it would’ve been to predict.

    The Republican Party, Graham said in Feb. 2016, would get “slaughtered” with Trump as the nominee. Exactly five years ago this week, the South Carolinian added, “If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.”

    Even then, the senator’s argument was more tactical than moral. Graham believed Republicans would lose if it nominated a racist television personality, and since his party winning elections was Graham’s principal goal, he denounced the future president. Graham didn’t see Trump as disgusting; he saw Trump as dangerous to his party’s electoral prospects.

    Five years later, the dynamic has largely been turned on its head — Graham effectively became Trump’s caddy for four years and positioned himself as a sycophant for a man he once labeled a “kook” — but the transactional nature of the senator’s vision remains the same. HuffPost noted overnight:

    Sen. Lindsey Graham weighed in on the looming Republican purge of Rep. Liz Cheney from House leadership over her opposition to former President Donald Trump. […] But Graham wasn’t all that sympathetic to her plight.

    “Can we move forward without President Trump? The answer is no,” Graham argued during a Fox News appearance. “I’ve always liked Liz Cheney, but she’s made the determination that the Republican Party can’t grow with President Trump. I’ve determined we can’t grow without him.”

    Holy fuck … the Republican Party is so screwed … and maybe democracy in the USA is also screwed.

    […] The senator really did set his credibility on fire. But just below the surface, the South Carolinian has been unyieldingly consistent about his principal focus: Graham’s sole interest is in seeing Republicans win elections. When Trump was seen as a likely impediment to that goal, Graham condemned him. Now that he sees Trump as useful toward achieving the goal, Graham embraces him.

    Note, the senator last night didn’t suggest that Liz Cheney was wrong about Trump and the value of democracy, but instead, Graham made the case that Liz Cheney’s assessment is inconvenient in the context of the party’s electoral strategy.

    It’s a vision rooted entirely in a transactional model. Period. Full stop. As MSNBC’s Chris Hayes added last night, Graham’s reasoning “is independent of any moral considerations whatsoever.”

    […] as Graham told Fox News in February, “To the Republican Party, if you want to win and stop the socialist agenda, we need to work with President Trump. We can’t do it without him…. I’m into winning. And if you want to get something off your chest, fine. But I’m into winning.”

    In this calculus, Trump’s corruption is irrelevant. His hostility toward democracy is irrelevant. His failures, incompetence, and inability to govern are all irrelevant. If the former president can be used as a tool to benefit his party, nothing else matters.

    Also, Trump’s hand in the death of more than half a million Americans is irrelevant to Lindsey Graham.

    […] Graham’s convinced the only way to win is with the disgraced former president who lost.

  108. says

    GOP starts to pay a price for opposing, then promoting, relief bill

    Republicans keep touting the Democratic relief bill that received literally zero GOP votes. This is more than just a passing curiousity.

    President Joe Biden signed the Democrats’ COVID relief package on March 11, but it was on March 10 when Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) celebrated the American Rescue Plan’s beneficial “targeted relief” for restaurants. The Mississippi Republican neglected to mention the fact that he voted against the bill that provided the relief.

    He soon had plenty of company. Reps. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) and Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) took similar steps in March, touting funds for community health centers in their respective districts, overlooking the inconvenient detail that those health centers wouldn’t have received the money if they’d had their way.

    Anecdotes like these — which congressional Democrats publicly predicted before the bill’s passage — keep coming up. The Associated Press ran this report yesterday alongside a perfect headline: “Republicans promote pandemic relief they voted against.”

    Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., said it pained her to vote against the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. But in the weeks that followed, the first-term Republican issued a news release celebrating more than $3.7 million from the package that went to community health centers in her district as one of her “achievements.” She said she prided herself on “bringing federal funding to the district and back into the pockets of taxpayers.” [Liar! Hypocrite!]

    […] While many Republicans have been misleading in their rhetoric, Malliotakis’ pitch is more brazen in its dishonesty.

    But the larger point remains the same: Republicans, from high-profile leaders to more obscure rank-and-file members, keep touting the Democratic bill that received literally zero GOP votes.

    And the more Republicans play this game, the more embarrassing headlines it generates about the GOP’s hypocrisy and willingness to try to deceive the public.

    […] Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) condemned the American Rescue Plan as “one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve seen pass here in the time I’ve been in the Senate.” The GOP leader added that he and his party intended to spend the next several months telling the American people just what a terrible mistake the Democrats’ COVID relief package is. His House counterpart, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) suggested the proposal would move the United States one step closer to becoming Venezuela.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), whose predictions about the future have routinely been amusing, boasted with certainty that the COVID relief package would be “bad politics” for Democrats because of the “narratives” it would generate.

    And yet, here we are: the American Relief Plan was, and is, quite popular. In fact, it’s so popular that a growing band of Republicans want to pretend they played a role in passing it — reality notwithstanding.

    […] Everything Republicans said at the time turned out to be the opposite of the truth.

    So when those same GOP lawmakers make the same predictions now — voters don’t want a partisan-but-popular infrastructure bill; voters won’t tolerate a $2 trillion bill; and on and on — Democrats need to realize that Republicans were wrong about this before, so there’s no reason to see their cries as credible now.

  109. says

    Republicans shield Trump from consequences in Stormy Daniels case

    The former president may not be in office anymore, but some Republican officials continue to carry his water.

    Donald Trump’s Stormy Daniels scandal broke in earnest more than three years ago, and though it was ultimately overshadowed by the other Republican fiascos, the controversy was a doozy.

    The Wall Street Journal reported in 2018 on Michael Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, paying the porn star $130,000 in pre-election hush money. In exchange, Daniels agreed not to discuss her alleged extramarital affair with the future president. Cohen was later convicted and sentenced to prison for, among other things, breaking campaign finance laws. Trump, meanwhile, was referenced in the case as “Individual 1” — in effect, an unindicted co-conspirator — after Cohen identified his client as having directed him to make the illegal payment.

    Trump, who was caught brazenly lying about his role in the mess, has never faced any legal consequences. As the New York Times reported, the Federal Election Commission, not surprisingly, took an interest in the scandal, but we know that the case is closed — at the insistence of Republican commissioners.

    In December 2020, the F.E.C. issued an internal report from its Office of General Counsel on how to proceed in its review. The office said it had found “reason to believe” violations of campaign finance law were made “knowingly and willfully” by the Trump campaign. But the election commission — split evenly between three Republicans and three Democratic-aligned commissioners — declined to proceed in a closed-door meeting in February. Two Republican commissioners voted to dismiss the case while two Democratic commissioners voted to move forward. There was one absence and one Republican recusal.

    The result of that February vote was announced yesterday.

    If recent history is any guide, the former president will seize on this as proof that he’s been “fully exonerated” by the Federal Election Commission, but that’s clearly not what happened.

    On the contrary, FEC officials recommended further investigation into the allegations, at which point Republican commissioners — appointed by Trump — intervened to ensure that Trump faced no consequences for his actions.

    Two of the Democratic commissioners on the FEC, Shana Broussard and Ellen Weintraub, wrote in an objection, “To conclude that a payment, made 13 days before Election Day to hush up a suddenly newsworthy 10- year-old story, was not campaign-related, without so much as conducting an investigation, defies reality. But putting that aside, Cohen testified under oath that he made the payment for the principal purpose of influencing the election. This more than satisfies the Commission’s ‘reason to believe’ standard to authorize an investigation.”

    For his part, Cohen told the Times, “The hush money payment was done at the direction of and for the benefit of Donald J. Trump. Like me, Trump should have been found guilty. How the F.E.C. committee could rule any other way is confounding.”[…]

  110. says

    […] the New York congresswoman [Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik] did exactly what one might expect her to do: Stefanik started making more Fox News appearances and aligning herself with Trump […]

    Soon, the moderate version of Stefanik was gone, replaced with an entirely new persona — which included asking the U.S. Supreme Court to keep Trump in power despite his defeat, and voting on Jan. 6 against legitimate election results.

    With [Liz] Cheney becoming a villain to her party for telling inconvenient truths, Stefanik is effectively on the campaign trail again, running for the House Republican Conference chair post. Yesterday, that included cringe-worthy nonsense.

    For example, Stefanik stressed her eagerness to “work with the president” — and she was referring to Trump, not Joe Biden. She proceeded to peddle all sorts of bizarre nonsense about the 2020 election, even expressing support for the utterly bonkers “audit” in Arizona and celebrating the former president as “the strongest supporter” of the U.S. Constitution, reality notwithstanding.

    […] It’s possible that the congresswoman’s earlier moderation was a charade, and this new far-right iteration reflects her sincere beliefs. It seems more likely that she knows she’s cynically pushing absurdities, and is choosing this course anyway to get ahead.

    Either way, the end result is the same.

    What does it take to be a Republican leader in 2021? Elise Stefanik is answering the question in painfully embarrassing ways.

    Link

  111. says

    “We Build The Wall” founder Brian Kolfage declared an income of $63,574 to the IRS in 2019.

    But in reality, he had hundreds of thousands of dollars pouring into a personal bank account from the GoFundMe-powered border wall project and other organizations, according to yet another federal indictment filed against Kolfage this week.

    We Build the Wall’s leadership — except for Steve Bannon, who received a last-minute presidential pardon from Donald Trump — already faces federal charges in New York. (Bannon is reportedly under scrutiny from New York state authorities.)

    The new indictment, from a grand jury in Northern Florida, adds even more potential prison time for Kolfage, a triple-amputee Air Force veteran who became the poster boy for the private border wall project.

    The latest indictment alleges that Kolfage filed a false tax return and committed wire fraud. The allegations add to those from the New York grand jury, which charged that he and others conspired to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

    According to the Florida grand jury, the deposits into Kolfage’s bank account “were obscured by passing through multiple organizations, corporations, entities, and persons.”

    […] In the New York case, Kolfage and his fellow defendants have pled not guilty. Last month, U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres said she would seek a trial in the fourth calendar quarter of 2021.

    Aside from allegedly scamming donors, We Build the Wall also engaged in a back-and-forth with the Trump administration over the organization’s desire to donate a border wall to the government. Kris Kobach, the group’s general counsel, even met with Mark Morgan, then the acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, in August 2019 […]

    That November, then-Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf and Border Patrol El Paso Sector Chief Gloria Chavez discussed We Build The Wall at a press conference. Kolfage’s wall in the region, Chavez said, was “very effective.”

    Accusations of shady dealings against the border wall fundraising group became a meme even before the federal charges. During one fundraising push, Bannon even joked to Kolfage that the Air Force vet “took all that money from Build the Wall” and bought a boat with it.

    According to the New York indictment, Kolfage actually did use part of the $350,000 he allegedly received in We Build The Wall funds for “home renovations, payments toward a boat, a luxury SUV, a golf cart, jewelry, cosmetic surgery, personal tax payments and credit card debt.”

    Aside from Bannon, We Build The Wall attracted a who’s-who of the nativist, Trumpian right: Advisory board members included Erik Prince, Kobach, former Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, Curt Schilling, and others. Some in the group had relationships with border vigilantes and right-wing extremists like Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes.

    TPM link

    Fraudsters, grifters and tax cheats, all the best trumpian people.

  112. says

    Follow-up to comment 131.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Steve Bannon can be brought in as a witness, since his pardon eliminates any 5th Amendment defense. If he refuses to answer questions or lies, these are new crimes. (Obstruction and perjury) Indict and imprison him.
    ———————-
    They were indicted in August 2019. Skated for two years and counting. White, connected, Privileged.
    ———————-
    Kolfage is doing a public service here by showing that even a very sympathetic and terribly wounded serviceman can be a greedy conman. I guess that is what happens when you hitch your star to a Trump vanity project and surround yourself with lifelong grifters. There is a part of me that has a deep sympathy for him – I am fairly certain that none of the money, toys or celebrity brought him much peace or happiness.
    ————————-
    In fairness after splashing on the boat and cosmetic surgery he probably didn’t have the $250,000 necessary to purchase a pardon through Roger Stone.
    ————————–
    Trump bragged about not paying taxes: “That makes me smart.”

  113. tomh says

    Federal Indictment Over George Floyd Killing Names Chauvin, 3 Other Officers
    May 7, 2021 KAILA PHILO and ANDY MONSERUD

    WASHINGTON (CN) — A federal grand jury brought civil rights charges early Friday against the four former police officers involved with the death of George Floyd: Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao.

    In just four short pages, the indictment slams the ex-Minneapolis officers with three counts of depriving Floyd of his rights under color of law.

    “Specifically, the defendants saw George Floyd lying on the ground in clear need of medical care, and willfully failed to aid Floyd, thereby acting with deliberate indifference to substantial risk of harm to Floyd,” the indictment states. “This offense resulted in bodily injury to, and the death of, George Floyd.”

  114. says

    Republicans are objectively unhappy that fewer people are dying of COVID

    The governmental response to the global deadly pandemic has been night and day since Joe Biden took charge in the White House, and the American people, by and large, get that. [graph available at the link]

    Before Inauguration Day, American satisfaction with the pandemic response stood at a record-low 31% approve, 66% disapprove. Biden entered office immediately setting ambitious vaccination goals, while pushing through the American Rescue Plan—both factors that clearly moved public opinion in a positive direction.

    While Democrats were obviously thrilled to finally have competent grownups in the White House again, people who wouldn’t be advocating the injection of Clorox to fight the virus, independents also moved into positive territory, from 29% satisfied and 68% dissatisfied, to 52% satisfaction today.

    But Republicans? Why, they’ve surveyed the world-leading vaccination effort, the dramatic drop in cases and deaths, and they’ve decided that nope, they’re not happy. [graph available at the link]

    Can you imagine digesting Donald Trump’s bumbling of the pandemic, literally suggesting shoving UV lights up your ass, while downplaying the carnage the pandemic was causing and flat-out admitting to lying about it … and thinking, “looks good!”

    When you’re that deep into cognitive dissonance, there’s no way you’re letting a pesky election snap you out of it. You believe that yes, Trump was indeed robbed of his rightful victory, ignoring every shred of reality proving otherwise. And yes, you suddenly believe that the pandemic response is now inadequate. [graph available at the link]

    A lot of people died because of Trump’s evil bumbling of the pandemic. Biden turned things around quickly, and we could see even lower numbers if his cultists would take the f’n vaccine. But regardless, we’re finally on a path to normalcy. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    And Republicans are pissed about that.

  115. says

    Yikes:

    Footage showing the moment a woman berated a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop last month, referring to him as a “Mexican racist” and telling him he would “never be white,” is going viral.

    In an edited clip of body camera footage from the stop, which has racked up over 5.7 million views on Twitter, the deputy could be seen approaching the car of the unidentified woman, whose face is blurred.

    The officer, who has also not been identified, told the woman at the start of the clip that he was pulling her over for holding her phone while driving.

    […] When the deputy asked her for her driver’s license, the woman said it was at her residence, and added that she had her son in the car with her, as well.

    Later in the clip, the woman asks the deputy to call his supervisor, to which he responds that he “already did.”

    “And so, you’re giving me a cell phone ticket? Is that why you’re harassing me?” the woman later asks.

    “It’s not harassment, I am enforcing the law, ma’am,” the officer replied.

    At one point, another man in uniform appears on the footage and informs the woman the other deputy is giving her a citation for using her phone while driving.

    All he needs is your signature, he’s only citing you for using your cell phone while you’re driving, that’s it,” he states.

    “For him being a Mexican racist? What is that name? Gasto?” she says as she appears to sign the citation.

    “You’re always going to be a Mexican. You’ll never be white, you know that right? You’ll never be white, which is what you really want to be. You want to be white,” she said. “You want to be white so bad.”

    According to the Los Angeles Times, the incident took place on April 23.

    After the incident, the woman reportedly filed a complaint against the officer alleging “discourtesy.”

    In a tweet earlier this week, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva commended how the deputy responded during the stop.

    “This Deputy exemplifies the core values of our Department, his demeanor during this traffic stop is just an example of professionalism and patience our @LASDHQ Deputies have,” he said. […]

    Link

    Link to Los Angeles Times

  116. says

    NBC News:

    A federal grand jury has indicted Derek Chauvin and three other former Minneapolis police officers on charges of violating George Floyd’s civil rights during the arrest that led to his death last year, according to the indictment unsealed Friday.

    ABC 15 News in Arizona:

    Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has assigned protection to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs after death threats amid the latest election audit.

    In other news that is awful:

    Having a conversation with a child following a traumatic event is paramount in maintaining mental health.

    But how do you broach that subject? How do you handle talking to your child about events like Thursday morning’s school shooting at Rigby Middle School? How do you handle that conversation once it is initiated?

    This school shooting in Idaho was not far from where I live. My nephew and his daughter are the people in the photo. “Mental health counselors offers insight for handling grief, emotions of children following school shooting.” Link. Our whole extended family feels terrified.

  117. says

    Miami Herald:

    If Florida won’t allow Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination for passengers and crew, the company’s CEO says it will take its ships elsewhere.

    CEO Frank Del Rio made the threat during an earnings call Thursday, just days after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill passed by the Republican-controlled state Legislature that bans businesses, schools and government entities in Florida from asking anyone to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination.

    Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the world’s third largest cruise company, parent to cruise brands Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. Miami-Dade County spent $263 million building a terminal for Norwegian at PortMiami that finished construction last year.

    […] On Fox News’ Laura Ingraham show on April 29 shortly after legislators passed the restriction for businesses, schools and government, DeSantis said, “You have a right to participate in society without them asking you to divulge this type of health information like just to go to a movie, just to go to a ball game.”

    […] The CDC has a Level 4 travel warning in place for cruise travel — the agency’s highest — citing the increased risk of getting COVID-19 on a cruise ship. […]

  118. says

    This ban sounds like a good idea.

    FEC targets Team Trump favorite: Pre-checked fundraising boxes

    Team Trump pioneered the practice of raising money through pre-checked boxes and recurring contributions. The FEC is unanimous in calling for a ban.

    Members of the Federal Election Commission tend not to agree on much. The nation’s top watchdog agency for election laws is divided evenly between Democratic and Republican members, and since they tend to vote along party lines, the FEC routinely deadlocks on important issues.

    Indeed, we learned this week that FEC officials recommended further investigation into Donald Trump’s alleged campaign-finance misdeeds, but nothing happened because of the stalemate between the divided commissioners.

    With this context in mind, it was striking to see FEC members vote unanimously on an increasingly important issue. The New York Times reported:

    The Federal Election Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend that Congress ban political campaigns from guiding donors by default into recurring contributions through prechecked boxes, a month after a New York Times investigation showed that former President Donald J. Trump’s political operation had steered huge numbers of unwitting supporters into repeated donations through that tactic.

    […] the New York Times first reported last month on Trump’s 2020 political operation and the brazenly underhanded tactics it employed to swindle its unsuspecting donors. […] the tactics and the scope of the scam were breathtaking.

    […] Team Trump set up a default system for online donors: by adding easily overlooked pre-checked boxes and opaque fine print, the then-president’s operation was able to fleece unsuspecting donors for months. Not surprisingly, banks and credit card companies were soon inundated “with fraud complaints from the president’s own supporters about donations they had not intended to make, sometimes for thousands of dollars.” Some donors even canceled their cards just to make the recurring payments to Trump stop.

    [Trump] was effectively fleecing his own supporters […]

    The original article added that the tools Team Trump relied on are being “exported … across the Republican Party, presaging a new normal for G.O.P. campaigns.” […] the National Republican Congressional Committee was relying on similar tactics, “deploying a prechecked box to enroll donors into repeating monthly donations — and using ominous language to warn them of the consequences if they opt out.” […]

    […] What made Trump’s and his party’s tactics unusual was the predatory nature of their tactics. The specific tool may be relatively common, but Republicans’ efforts to hide and intimidate stood out […]

    The National Republican Congressional Committee’s donation page read last month, for example, “If you UNCHECK this box, we will have to tell Trump you’re a DEFECTOR & sided with the Dems. CHECK this box and we can win back the House and get Trump to run in 2024.” All of that text is bolded. Below it, in text that isn’t bold, the box added, “Make this a monthly recurring donation.”

    The appeal came on the heels of a different recent NRCC fundraising pitch with a similar pre-checked yellow box. “If you want Trump to run for President in 2024, check this box,” it read. “If we flip 5 seats and the House RED, Trump says he’ll run. Uncheck this box, we lose.”

    Trump didn’t actually say this, of course. The National Republican Congressional Committee simply wanted to separate its supporters from their money. […]

  119. says

    Why the right is panning Biden’s ‘Day of Prayer’ proclamation

    For some conservatives, the White House National Day of Prayer proclamation lacked specific spiritual language the right wanted to hear.

    As “holidays” go, the official National Day of Prayer is probably a little obscure for much of the public. […] Congress established an annual prayer day in 1952, and in 1988, lawmakers agreed to set the date for the occasion as the first Thursday in May.

    […] according to federal law, the National Day of Prayer in the United States was yesterday.

    For now, let’s put aside the constitutional incongruity of a secular government having a state-sanctioned day in which elected leaders encourage Americans to honor prayer. Instead, what was of particular interest this year was President Joe Biden’s proclamation recognizing the 2021 National Day of Prayer.

    At first blush, the Democrat — the nation’s second Roman Catholic president, and a regular church-goer — issued a straightforward proclamation that reads the way one might expect it to read:

    “Throughout our history, Americans of many religions and belief systems have turned to prayer for strength, hope, and guidance. Prayer has nourished countless souls and powered moral movements — including essential fights against racial injustice, child labor, and infringement on the rights of disabled Americans. Prayer is also a daily practice for many, whether it is to ask for help or strength, or to give thanks over blessings bestowed.”

    From there, Biden’s statement explained that our First Amendment protections, including religious liberty, “have helped us to create and sustain a Nation of remarkable religious vitality and diversity across the generations.”

    The declaration went to recognize the nation’s ongoing crises and the fact people of faith “can call upon the power of prayer to provide hope and uplift us for the work ahead.” It then quoted the late-Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who said, “Nothing can stop the power of a committed and determined people to make a difference in our society. Why? Because human beings are the most dynamic link to the divine on this planet.”

    It concluded with an inclusive and optimistic message that was entirely in line with Biden’s larger vision:

    “On this National Day of Prayer, we unite with purpose and resolve, and recommit ourselves to the core freedoms that helped define and guide our Nation from its earliest days. We celebrate our incredible good fortune that, as Americans, we can exercise our convictions freely — no matter our faith or beliefs. Let us find in our prayers, however they are delivered, the determination to overcome adversity, rise above our differences, and come together as one Nation to meet this moment in history.”

    So why am I mentioning all of this? Because it turns out that quite a few folks on the right found the president’s declaration outrageous.

    […] The Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody, for example, slammed Biden’s proclamation as “pathetic” because it referenced climate change and racial justice, but didn’t explicitly use the word “God.”

    Jenna Ellis, a former lawyer for Team Trump, added, “Joe Biden’s Godless Prayer Proclamation: no mention of God or even a Bible quote! Instead we get a quote from John Lewis and a proclamation invoking climate change. It looks like a DNC Memo!”

    For his part, Franklin Graham wrote, “Why would President Biden omit God? … That speaks volumes doesn’t it? It is hard to believe we have come this far. Omitting God is a dangerous thing.”

    […] Though I don’t imagine these Biden critics intended to make such a point, their criticisms help reinforce why the National Day of Prayer is itself so dubious. For the faithful, every day is a day of prayer, and faith communities don’t need a government or a president to promote prayer’s importance.

    In fact, when government tries to intervene, even delicately, it leads to the kind of public pushback the White House is receiving from the likes of Graham, Ellis, and Brody, who are apparently disgusted that their spiritual beliefs weren’t endorsed by the government in a way they found satisfying.

    It’s possible that next year, Biden and his team will accommodate such criticisms by including direct “God” references, though that could lead to related criticisms from polytheists, pantheists, or atheists who might expect the White House to endorse their beliefs, too. […]

    One possible solution to such thorny theological issues is for the government to stay out of the religion-promotion business altogether.

  120. says

    Rep. Mo Brooks has been hiding from process servers, after bragging about his role on Jan. 6

    On Jan. 6, in the hours just before insurgents overran the Capitol, Republican Rep. Mo Brooks stood on the “Stop the Steal” stage and delivered a message designed to set the stakes for the already riled-up crowd.

    “I’ve got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home and along the way, stop at the Capitol,” said Brooks. “Today, Republican senators and congressmen will either vote to turn America into a godless, amoral, dictatorial, oppressed and socialist nation on the decline, or they will join us and they will fight and vote against voter fraud and election theft and vote for keeping America great.” And in case that invitation to “stop at the Capitol” was too subtle, Brooks made his intentions absolutely clear.

    “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass,” said Brooks. “Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you. Are you willing to do the same?” Brooks then repeatedly shouted at the crowd, “Will you fight for America?” before saying, “We, American patriots are going to come right at them!”

    In March, Brooks kicked off his campaign for senator in Alabama, with the goal of filling the seat left by retiring Senator Richard Shelby. As CNN noted at the time, Brooks has placed his support for the Big Lie and that speech on Jan. 6 right at the center of his campaign. Brooks is literally running on his support for the insurgency.

    But when it comes to facing a court case based on charges of incitement, Brooks is running away.

    As Axios reported on March 5, Rep. Eric Swalwell filed suit in U.S. District Court citing both Brooks and Donald Trump as being “responsible for the injury and destruction” of the Jan. 6 attack. That lawsuit states that the deadly attack on the Capitol, including the attempt to kidnap and execute members of Congress, came “As a direct and foreseeable consequence of the Defendants’ false and incendiary allegations of fraud and theft, and in direct response to the Defendants’ express calls for violence at the rally.”

    More than a month later, Swalwell says Brooks is continuing to dodge process servers and refusing to be served with the lawsuit. Others charges in the suit, including Trump, have waived service—meaning that the case can proceed to court—but Brooks remains as a lone holdout. He has neither waived service, nor acknowledged the paperwork that has been delivered to his office.

    […] On Jan. 6, Brooks put out a brief statement that he “always condemns violence.” However, he followed this almost immediately with a tweet insisting that the cause of violence was not the people he had just told to “kick ass” and “come right at them” in an effort to save the nation. Instead, wrote Brooks, the assault was conducted by “fascist ANTIFA”—a term that may set the record for cognitive dissonance.

    Brooks has continued to repeat claims that antifa was behind the attack. However, in his campaign he has also highlighted scenes of the Jan. 6 rally and stated that on that day, “I did my duty for my country.” The level of ridiculous self-contradictory elements in Brooks’ statements may seem obvious, but then he is running as the most MAGA of a number of MAGA candidates vying for Shelby’s spot. Being ridiculous is part of the job description.

    […] Brooks previously ran for the Senate in 2017 in the hopes of capturing the seat that once belonged to Jeff Sessions. He enjoyed the support of Trump along with Fox News personalities Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity. He came in third in the Republican primary.

  121. says

    On Friday, the White House press briefing included the conspiracy-addled jumble of thoughts from right-wing Newsmax reporter (big question mark if she can be called a reporter) Emerald Robinson. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki does charity work every briefing by allowing right-wing outlets a chance to ask what passes for “questions” about made up right-wing things at virtually every press conference. Newsmax and Fox News and other organizations overselling the word “news” in their name will frequently raise their hand and then attempt to ask what passes for gotcha journalism in the conservative blogosphere.

    This means creating false narratives filled with strawman arguments and made up facts, that like the twice impeached former president are always prefaced with phrases like, “Some people are saying,” or “Lots of people are saying,” or some other such construction of a fake audience wondering about things most people are not wondering about. An example would be today, when Psaki called on Robinson, who proceeded to just babble on endlessly from one conspiracy theory to another. But Psaki isn’t a two-bit confidence shill like the previous administration’s merry-go-round clown parade cast of press secretaries, and she isn’t having any of this. […]

    EMERALD ROBINSON: Given the number of former Obama administration officials that are now in this Biden administration, and the president’s relatively light schedule, there’s a growing perception that this is really just the third term of President Obama. What do you say to people who say that?

    It’s like watching a pre-school kid trying to retell you a knock knock joke […] Psaki matches Robinson’s question by being as serious as she can be […] by asking Robinson, “Who is saying that?” Robinson responds with, “You hear that a lot in the media,” which is interesting as no one around these here parts has heard this thing that Robinson’s media is saying.

    Psaki then asks Robinson, “Who in the media?” to which Emerald Robinson, a grown adult person, literally says, “Different people.” It not only reads like a bad high school movie, it plays out like a truly terrible one. Psaki just lets Robinson try to explain herself, offering her a chance to dig her grave of ignorance and petty ambition deeper and deeper.

    Robinson, unable to give the names […] attempts asking a question that implies Vice President Kamala Harris did all of the heavy lifting when Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga came to town. Psaki reminds Robinson that she can’t react to imaginary people who are saying imaginary things, but if Robinson ever runs into these people, she can remind them President Biden met with Prime Minister Suga, had a meal with Prime Minister Suga, held a long press conference with Prime Minister Suga. […]

    Robinson has zero at this point and attempts to say that Harris has more responsibilities than any other previous vice president. It’s “unprecedented,” in fact. Psaki smiles and says she would love to see the “data” on that, and would welcome it from Robinson […]

    Robinson, seeing the clock begin to tick down on her relevance, goes for the big conspiracy question: Why did Dr. Anthony Fauci and the National Institutes of Health help fund a virology lab in Wuhan, China, and where does Biden stand on the YouTube conspiracy theory that COVID-19 is a lab leak? (By the way, the conspiracy theory is not that there’s a lab leak being covered up, it’s that this lab leak is being covered up because Fauci and others have purposefully used this pandemic to turn everybody’s children into Chinese Muslim atheists who want to enslave white people. Or something in that lane.)

    Psaki reiterated the White House position that they would like a full impartial investigation into the origins of the 2019 novel coronavirus, but until there is real evidence presented, investigated, and analyzed, speculating in the fashion that people like Newsmax’s Emerald Robinson was makes an ass out of you and you. Robinson, having taken up almost four minutes of time with her fact-free nonquestions, attempts to continue following up until finally Psaki semi-politely tells her, “I’m sorry, Emerald, I think you’ve had plenty of time today.”

    This isn’t the first time Emerald Robinson has attempted to push the conspiracy-soaked half-meanderings of the MAGA audience […], and it likely will not be the last time. But Psaki understands that Robinson is a lightweight and seems content to just let Newsmax spin its fact-free wheels and not give any credence to their deluded world view. […]

    Video is available at the link.

  122. blf says

    Loosely, very loosely, related to Lynna@142, about “standout” reporters, a snippet from the Grauniad’s 200 years of newsroom style: what journalists wear to work:

    As the paper’s head of investigations, Paul Lewis, […] puts it: “When you go to a story where there are lots of reporters, the Guardian journalists are always the most underdressed there. And the ones with beards.”

    He didn’t explain if the female journalists grew their own, or used faked breads. 😉

  123. says

    New Jersey landlord sues to end lease with private prison company that jails immigrants at property

    A property owner that leases a crowded, windowless warehouse in New Jersey to private prison company CoreCivic has sued to end its contract, alleging the private prison profiteer has failed to protect immigrants detained at the Elizabeth Detention Center (EDC) amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, NorthJersey.com reports.

    Portview Properties says CoreCivic, which holds a federal contract to detain up to 145 people for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has failed to meet basic safety standards inside, resulting in more than 50 cases of COVID-19. The report said that during one nine-day period last month, a dozen detained people tested positive.

    “The company alleges that CoreCivic failed to meet the basic safety, health care, sanitation and hygiene needs of all those detained,” NorthJersey.com reports. “Furthermore, the lawsuit states, the company does not permit individuals to maintain social distancing, and that detainees sleep in dorms with 40 beds or cots in one room, clustered closely together, and must share a restroom.”

    Oh, FFS. Long past time to get rid of private prisons! And think about this: taxpayer money is being used to pay CoreCivic for these inhumane actions.

    […] The allegations against CoreCivic are in no way shocking. Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, the first detained person to die from the virus while in ICE custody, had been detained at a California facility operated by CoreCivic. EDC itself made headlines in the first days of the pandemic, when a staffer went into self-quarantine after testing positive for the virus. […]

    “How long has @CoreCivic ‘s ICE detention center in Elizabeth, NJ, been a problem?” tweeted reported Matt Katz. “In 1995 detainees attempted to take over the facility, making same allegations that continue today: inedible food, lack of fresh air, bugs, filth & crowded sleeping quarters.”

    “Given the grave concerns expressed by those individuals who have experienced first-hand the dangerous conditions within the EDC, Plaintiff demanded assurances from Defendant that it is operating the EDC in accordance with its contractual obligation to adhere to and implement federal COVD-19 safety guidelines, regulations and requirements,” Gothamist reports, as stated in the lawsuit. “In response, Defendant offered only a naked statement that it is in compliance with its obligations under the ICE Contract.” [Bullshit]

    […] Should Portview succeed in its lawsuit, its contract with CoreCivic would be terminated more than a year early. NorthJersey.com reports the company had expressed interest in renewing its lease until 2027 (highlighting the ongoing need for the Biden administration to take steps to cancel ICE’s contracts altogether). […]

    “The news of a potential possibility of closing the center came with a relief that no one would have to go through the horrible system as I did,” Okporo said in that report. “It’s coming late, but slow progress is better than no progress.”

  124. says

    According to former DeSantis staffers, the governor is an awful person in private, too

    In case you didn’t already know that Ron DeSantis is an awful […] human being, the following eye-opening revelations about the country’s foremost COVID-19 superspreader are bound to disabuse you of any notion that he’s got a soft spot […]

    Seems he’s not simply awful to state employees who think COVID-19 is a serious problem that needs to be honestly confronted. […]

    So this guy appears to have presidential aspirations, assuming Donald Trump realizes that he’s just a cacophonous panic yam who has no business in politics or, more likely, spontaneously sluices through a sewer grate after the vaccine he took turns him into the powerful X-Men mutant Languid Goop Puddle. (I really don’t think Trump will run again. He will, however, sop up lots of money and attention, leaving mini-Trumps like DeSantis in an indefinite holding pattern.)

    In Friday’s edition of Politico’s Playbook, the curtain is pulled back a bit more on the inner workings of Team DeathSantis, and what we’re treated to is an unnerving glimpse at Prince Dick himself. The news outlet spoke with “a dozen or so” former DeSantis aides and consultants who all agreed: “DeSantis treats staff like expendable widgets.”

    — A “support group” of former DeSantis staffers meets regularly to trade war stories about their hardship working for the governor. The turnover in his office and among his campaign advisers is well known among Republicans: […] he has only two staffers who started with him when he was a junior member of Congress.

    — Within six months of taking office as governor in 2019, DeSantis fired five staffers. One was a 23-year-old scheduler who’d been with him since the beginning of his gubernatorial race. Shortly after she was sent packing, an unnamed member of DeSantis’ administration was quoted in a Florida blog trashing her performance. A month later, his deputy chief of staff left […]

    — Another story relayed to us by five former staffers: At the beginning of his administration, DeSantis directed the Florida Republican Party leader to fire a party official who had cancer — on that person’s first week back from surgery.

    […] Politico also notes that DeSantis frequently blames staff for his own mistakes. […]

    Another former staffer was particularly blunt about DeSantis: “Loyalty and trust, that is not a currency he deals in.” […]

  125. johnson catman says

    blf @143:

    He didn’t explain if the female journalists grew their own, or used faked breads. 😉

    That is either a hilarious typo or an awesome use of subtle humor!

  126. says

    Major US pipeline halts operations after cyberattack

    One of the largest pipelines in the U.S. was forced to halt some of its operations Friday after a crippling cyberattack on its energy infrastructure.

    Colonial Pipeline, which funnels refined gasoline and jet fuel from Texas to New York, said in a statement late Friday that it was shuttering 5,500 miles of pipeline in an attempt to contain the breach.

    The company has already reached out to law enforcement and tapped a third-party company to conduct an investigation into the attack, though it did not reveal who it believes is behind the breach.

    “On May 7, the Colonial Pipeline Company learned it was the victim of a cybersecurity attack. In response, we proactively took certain systems offline to contain the threat, which has temporarily halted all pipeline operations, and affected some of our IT systems. Upon learning of the issue, a leading, third-party cybersecurity firm was engaged, and they have already launched an investigation into the nature and scope of this incident, which is ongoing,” the company said. […]

    The attack struck a company that transports 2.5 million barrels each day, supplying fuel from the Gulf Coast to New York Harbor and many of New York’s major airports […]

  127. says

    Michael Cohen on Giuliani’s legal fees: He won’t get ‘two cents’ from Trump

    […] “He’s going to get stiffed. All right?” Cohen said, adding that Trump “does not pay legal bills.”

    […] “He doesn’t care about anyone or anything other than himself.”

    The New York Times first reported this week that Giuliani’s advisers were in talks with Trump’s team and attempting to get it to use some of the funds in its $250 million campaign bank account to reimburse the attorney for his work in the multistate legal effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

    The requests to Trump’s team reportedly increased after FBI agents executed a search warrant on Giuliani’s apartment and office and obtained electronic devices as part of a probe into the embattled attorney’s dealings with Ukrainian oligarchs.

    Reid on Friday asked Cohen, who was sentenced to three years in prison in 2018, if he was “surprised” that Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor and New York City mayor, “didn’t try to get paid up front.”

    “He thought Donald Trump was going to pay him $140,000 a day. He has a better chance of sling-shooting himself to the moon,” Cohen responded while laughing.

    “It’s impossible. Donald Trump wouldn’t pay him two cents,” he continued. “His feeling is, it is an honor and a privilege to go to prison for him, to do his dirty work.”

    Cohen, who later in the interview called Giuliani “dopey,” said he wanted to “welcome” the fellow ex-personal attorney of Trump to the “under-the-bus club.” […]

  128. says

    Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) on Friday argued that they were “ahead” of their Republican colleagues in an effort to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.) from her role in GOP leadership. [LOL]

    Cheney, the House Republican Conference chairwoman, is facing a vote next week on whether she should keep her position. The vote is shaping up to be a loyalty test to former President Trump, whom Cheney has vocally criticized.

    Gaetz and Greene, who have put themselves forward as some of Trump’s most ardent defenders in Congress, spoke during an event Friday at The Villages in Florida, the first stop on their “America First Tour.”

    The pair noted that they have long pressed for Cheney’s removal from her leadership post after she voted earlier this year to impeach Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 mob attack at the U.S. Capitol. […]

    Link

  129. says

    Well that’s a crime.

    Wonkette: “Sovereign Citizen Streams Self Stealing Vial Of Vaccine, To Save Us All From ‘Poisoning”

    Currently making the rounds of “patriot” social media is this nutso video of a Minnesota gentleman, one Thomas Humphrey, walking out of a drugstore with what appears to be a full vial of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine. He states that he’s going to have it analyzed in a lab, so everyone will know what’s really in it. […] [video is available at the link]

    Nothing like recording yourself committing an act of theft!

    Now, we haven’t been able to chase down a lot of information on Mr. Humphrey, except that he has apparently pulled a similar stunt at a walk-in clinic recently, too. On Tuesday, he posted a video to Facebook of his visit to “take his vaccine,” by which he meant grabbing the vial, shouting to others in the clinic that the vaccine would kill them, and then leaving in a hurry. […] An alert person on Twitter pointed out to me that the clinic seems to be in Minnesota or in Western Wisconsin, because that’s where Allina Health operates. [video available at the link]

    In both instances, staff at the clinic and the drugstore appear to have called the police […]

    Mr Humphrey is also a sovereign citizen, and posted video Thursday of his encounter with two incredibly patient police officers, because he doesn’t have a license plate or a driver’s license. (He explained that he cut up his driver’s license and returned it to the DMV, because he declined to enter a contract with the state.) We were impressed by the male cop, who clearly has studied up on sovereign citizen loon.

    And yes, he even told the cops that any information they found about him in their system referred only to the fictional legal entity that has his name, not to him, because that person does not exist. He also warned that if they arrested him, he would have to bill the cops $1,000 a minute for the entire time they detain him. After all, he’s a private American national, and no law is binding on him except the Constitution, as he understands it.

    Spoiler: They arrested him and he went to jail, briefly. Later, he posted another video proclaiming, “My kidnappers have set me free.” […]

    Thank goodness, before all that happened, Humphrey got the two vials of stolen vaccine mailed off to a lab, carefully documenting part of the process on Facebook, and of course thanking God for all the help. [Facebook post is available at the link.]

    Before he managed to make that contact, Humphrey posted video of himself walking into “a lab” Wednesday, though he didn’t actually have any luck getting the “poison” analyzed. No doubt because they’re all in on the plot together, you know.

  130. says

    Gonna be a long fight.

    Liz Cheney’s months-long effort to turn Republicans from Trump threatens her reelection and ambitions. She says it’s only beginning.

    Washington Post link

    Rep. Liz Cheney had been arguing for months that Republicans had to face the truth about former president Donald Trump — that he had lied about the 2020 election result and bore responsibility for the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — when the Wyoming Republican sat down at a party retreat in April to listen to a polling briefing.

    The refusal to accept reality, she realized, went much deeper.

    When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

    Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

    Cheney was alarmed, she later told others, in part because Republican campaign officials had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs. Both instances, she concluded, demonstrated that party leadership was willing to hide information from their own members to avoid the truth about Trump and the possible damage he could do to Republican House members […]

    At issue: Should the Republican Party continue to defend Trump’s actions and parrot his falsehoods, given his overwhelming support among GOP voters? Or does the party and its leaders need to directly confront the damage he has done?

    […] Cheney and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had come down on opposite sides of the divide, undermining the party’s efforts to put on a united front. Even before the riot, when McCarthy was calling on Republicans to “not back down” after the election, Cheney had quietly organized an essay by 10 former defense secretaries declaring the election results settled and warning the military not to be involved in Trump’s election protest.

    She was shocked when McCarthy signed on to an amicus brief in a Texas case seeking to overturn the election, after he’d told her in a private conversation that he did not plan to, according to a person familiar with the conversation. More recently, she has sought to undermine McCarthy’s efforts to dilute the potency of a congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6 riot. McCarthy wants to broaden the inquiry’s scope to include antifa and Black Lives Matter violence, as well as the slaying of a Capitol Hill police officer in April.

    […] She has been willing to sacrifice her House leadership ambitions and put at risk her reelection hopes, allies say, to try to push the party away from the former president. After McCarthy visited with Trump in January in an effort to broker a truce that he hoped could pave the way for a Republican takeover of the House — and, potentially, McCarthy’s speakership — she called McCarthy out for backing away from earlier saying the former president “bears responsibility” for the riot.

    Even if she is cast out of power in the House, she has made clear that she will not stop, promising to take her argument against Trump to the campaign trail in Wyoming, where he garnered 70 percent of the vote in 2020. She has told others that blocking Trump from leading the party is a fight she sees as just beginning, no matter how Wednesday’s vote goes.

    “The Republican Party is at a turning point,” Cheney wrote Wednesday in a Washington Post op-ed, “and Republicans must decide whether we are going to choose truth and fidelity to the Constitution.”

    That is a remarkable statement from a Republican conference chairwoman, whose job description requires her to develop, coordinate and elevate the party’s communications strategy against Democrats, which she has continued to do at times with far less fanfare. […]

    Even before the Jan. 6 riot, she had been working to stem the threat she saw in Trump.

    “She called me and said, ‘You know, I’m really worried about this. What should we do?’ ” said former U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, who worked with her to write the essay by the former defense secretaries. “Liz was a prime mover of the whole thing, really.”

    […] The backlash to Liz Cheney’s focus on Trump has been fierce. As recently as Monday, Trump met with his advisers in Florida to discuss 2022 endorsements, according to people familiar with the meeting. One of Trump’s major priorities was to pick a single candidate from the ever-expanding ranks of Republican rivals in Wyoming who are seeking to run against her, so the anti-Cheney vote is not divided. Trump political advisers have already begun making calls to officials in Wyoming, circulating polling memos and meeting with potential candidates. Jason Miller, a Trump spokesman, said knocking off Cheney was “one of the highest priorities as far as primary endorsements go.”

    […] In a Feb. 7 appearance on Fox News Sunday, she leaned into her complaints about Trump’s election denial and role in the riot, even suggesting that he should be investigated by prosecutors for the possibility that he intended to incite an attack against Vice President Pence.

    “This is not something that we can simply look past, or pretend didn’t happen, or try to move on [from],” she told host Chris Wallace. “We’ve got to make sure this never happens again.” […]

    She has recently told others that she believes the voters of Wyoming will ultimately reelect her, understanding that assaults on constitutional processes like elections cannot be accepted.

    But even her reelection, a much lower ambition, may require a transformation in the Republican Party away from its current dependence on and adoration of Trump.

    In early February, the last time Republicans gathered to determine her fate, she was the one to demand a formal vote on whether she stayed in her leadership position. She is expected to make the same demand on Wednesday, forcing her Republican colleagues to once again confront the former president’s role in a violent attack on the U.S. Capitol — at least privately.

    “The choice is so clear,” said one Cheney ally. “Is it okay to be in leadership and tell the truth? That is what members are going to have to weigh in on.”

  131. says

    Trump DOJ Secretly Seized Post Reporters’ Phone Records

    The Justice Department under […] Trump secretly obtained the phone records of three Washington Post reporters over reporting they did in the early months of the Trump administration, the Washington Post reported on Friday night.

    The Post said that the Justice Department wrote in letters addressed to its reporters Ellen Nakashima and Greg Miller, and former reporter Adam Entous, that they were “hereby notified that pursuant to legal process the United States Department of Justice received toll records associated with the following telephone numbers for the period from April 15, 2017 to July 31, 2017.”

    The letters do not specify the purpose of the seizure which also included an effort to obtain records from work email accounts which investigators ultimately did not obtain.

    The Post notes, however, that in July 2017, the reporters named had written a story that detailed discussions about the Trump campaign between then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak. Sessions was at the Justice Department serving as Trump’s first attorney-general when the article appeared.

    […] The high-profile seizure, which listed, work, home or cell phone numbers for the reporters, is the latest example of a controversial government practice of obtaining journalists’ records in likely efforts to identify the sources of leaks.

    A department spokesman told the Post that the decision to seek a court order for the records must be approved by the attorney general came in 2020 during the Trump administration.

    For the majority of 2020 that would have been Bill Barr who resigned Dec. 23.

    A department spokesman, Marc Raimondi, defended that “rare” decision, in a statement to the Post, saying that the DOJ follows established procedures within its media guidelines policy when seeking legal process to obtain telephone and email records from media members “as part of a criminal investigation into unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

    “The targets of these investigations are not the news media recipients but rather those with access to the national defense information who provided it to the media and thus failed to protect it as lawfully required,” Raimondi said.

    Cameron Barr, the Post’s acting executive editor said in a statement that the paper was “deeply troubled by this use of government power to seek access to the communications of journalists.”

    “The Department of Justice immediately make clear its reasons for this intrusion into the activities of reporters doing their jobs, an activity protected under the First Amendment,” he said.

  132. says

    Small-town bar owner faces big-time consequences after selling fake vaccine cards to undercover cops

    Americans nationwide are being vaccinated in record numbers. To date, over 100 million Americans are considered fully vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine. As these individuals post pictures of their vaccination cards, experts are urging them to edit out not only personal information but the batch number of their dose. This is due to the increasing number of fraudulent vaccination cards being offered online and the risk of scammers stealing one’s identity.

    In a recent incident, a California bar owner was arrested after officials found he sold fake COVID-19 vaccine cards for $20 per card […] The bar owner, Todd Anderson, was arrested Tuesday after selling the counterfeit cards to undercover agents […] According to the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, at least eight cards were sold to customers from the bar, The Old Corner Saloon in Clements.

    “We were able to purchase four, and then today we located 30 blank cards, laminating machines, laminate, cutters and things to manufacture the cards,” Luke Blehm, a spokesperson from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, told the local news outlet KOVR. Investigators from the department took over after a local sheriff’s office got a tip that the fake vaccine cards were being manufactured, laminated, and sold out of the bar. They were able to buy the fake vaccine cards on multiple occasions in April, a press release said, noting that the act was “a violation of the California Penal Code.”

    […] 59-year-old Anderson was charged with falsifying a medical record, falsifying a seal, several counts of identity theft, and possession of a loaded, unregistered firearm, authorities said. Being in possession of a loaded, unregistered firearm is a felony in California, officials said.

    […] While experts have warned of the risk of fraudulent cards being distributed, Blehm noted that this criminal case may be the first of its kind. […]

    Warnings of fraudulent cards come amid the announcements of easing restrictions for those who get the COVID-19 vaccine nationwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, individuals who are vaccinated no longer need to observe the most stringent COVID-19 safety regulations, including wearing a mask.

    Additionally, experts believe the cards may eventually be needed for traveling and other activities, thus increasing the demand for them. The vaccination cards are provided to all those who are vaccinated and include the date and location of each shot alongside one’s personal information.

    […] those who refuse to get vaccinated are looking into fake cards. In March, the FBI issued a warning regarding this trend, noting that not only does it increase the risk of COVID-19 but it is illegal to both buy or sell the fraudulent cards, […]

    “It is disheartening to have members in our community show flagrant disregard for public health in the midst of a pandemic,” San Joaquin County District Attorney Tori Verber Salazar said in the statement.

    “Distributing, falsifying or purchasing fake COVID-19 vaccine cards is against the law and endangers yourself and those around you,” she continued. “The San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office is grateful for the partnership with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control for their work in this case.”

    In efforts to decrease the rise in fraudulent cards, cybersecurity experts are urging individuals not to share images of their vaccination cards online. For those who want to still share their cards, experts suggest editing out not only your personal information but the batch number of your dose. For those who would like to post on social media but do not want to share their card, stickers and other graphics are also being shared to encourage others to be vaccinated without risking public safety and threats of fake cards.

  133. says

    Vaccine patent waivers face more hurdles despite Biden support

    The Biden administration made a splash this past week when it backed a temporary waiver of international patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

    The sudden announcement delighted U.S. progressives and drug pricing advocates, but roiled the pharmaceutical industry, sending stock prices tumbling.

    Yet the move by administration officials was largely symbolic, and carefully worded.

    Numerous hurdles need to be overcome before the intellectual property (IP) waiver can be turned into policy. And despite the immediate pushback from the pharmaceutical industry, experts are skeptical of just how big of an impact it will have on those companies.

    “I think the IP issue is an important one, but I think, frankly, opening up IP is really just one part of a much larger effort,” said Tom Frieden, who was director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration.

    “It may signal to parts of the society that the government is serious about it, it may signal to industry that the government is serious about it, but it is not in itself going to make any difference in a short term in terms of vaccine access,” Frieden said.

    It will be many months before the WTO even votes on the matter, and if a waiver passes it will likely be even longer before manufacturing can be scaled up to develop enough vaccines to have a meaningful impact in the global fight against the coronavirus.

    […] the head of the WTO said she would press member countries to reach an agreement on the waiver petition no later than December, setting up a vote on the final language at the body’s Dec. 3 meeting.

    The lengthy timeline raises questions about the effectiveness of an IP waiver, especially since it might only be narrowly tailored for the length of the global pandemic.

    U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Wednesday said she will pursue “text-based negotiations” on the WTO waiver, acknowledging that they “will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved.”

    […] Negotiating an agreement could be a long and messy process.

    “It’s really crucial that we begin ramping up manufacturing immediately, because we’re going to have the likelihood of big outbreaks around the world in the coming months and years,” Frieden said. “So, a multi-month negotiation is not a formula for rapid improvement in global vaccine and supply.”

    In order for a waiver to pass, every country needs to agree. […] key American allies in Europe have been raising concerns, and any one of them could block the move.

    “If history is any guide, you know those negotiations are long, protracted, difficult, complex,” said Josh Michaud, an associate director for global health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. […]

    the U.S. decision to enter the negotiation process puts pressure on other countries and the pharmaceutical industry to find a way forward. Governments might use their leverage to work with pharmaceutical companies, or move companies toward technology transfer and licensing deals. […]

  134. says

    Wonkette: “No, Human Traffickers Are Not Using Cheese To Kidnap People”

    […] we want you to know that if you happen to find a slice of cheese on your car, it is much more likely that you were visited by a kindly cheese fairy and not in fact being targeted as chattel for a sex trafficking ring.

    Whew! Glad we cleared that one up!

    But like so many other notions that once seemed too absurd for anyone to believe — like this lady’s assertions that Hillary Clinton died eight months ago from kuru, a disease associated with cannibalism — it is in fact a thing that people are saying is a thing. Go figure, right?

    An article published earlier this week on IHeartRadio warned women that if they go outside and see slices of cheese on their car, they could be being targeted to be kidnapped by sex traffickers. The source of this article was a TikTok video from a girl named Mimi, who claimed that this very thing happened to her. Not the sex trafficking part. Just the cheese. But she was pretty sure some dudes in a van put the cheese on her car and totally would have trafficked her had she not called her friend to help her get the cheese off of her car.

    Via IHeartRadio:

    It might sound silly, but a TikTok user named Mimi is very serious about her experience. She posted a video which she said is “for all my ladies out there.” In it, Mimi explains how she came out of church on Sunday to find cheese melted on her car. Likely thinking it was just some kids’ prank, she called a friend to help scrape it off, but when her friend arrived, a white van with men in it two parking spots down from her pulled out and went to a lot across they street, where they parked so they could watch the women clean off the cheese.

    Mimi said it took an hour to get rid of the mess and stated, “I personally had no idea that they were using this as a tactic to take people now and if I hadn’t called my friend, I could have easily been taken in the hour that it took me to scrape off the cheese and this happened at my church, so I can’t even imagine where they’re trying to use this on people.”

    So just to recap: A couple of human traffickers were looking for adult women to kidnap, for the purpose of turning them out, so they got in their classic molester van and headed to a church parking lot early one Sunday morning, with a stack of Kraft singles. Then they watched as people came to church, set their sights on this lady and then placed two Kraft singles on her car hood hoping that when she came out, she would take the cheese off herself right there instead of doing it at home, providing them with an opportunity to steal her away.

    It sounds ridiculous, but apparently enough people saw this and thought it seemed plausible for Snopes to have to write an article debunking it. As they explained, that is just not even sort of how human trafficking works and there no ongoing issues with cheese-related kidnappings that anyone has ever heard of.

    The thing is, it’s pretty understandable that this woman felt scared and vulnerable. Women generally have to be on high alert. […] But coming up with outlandish “tactics” that nefarious and shadowy trafficking groups are using to abduct innocent ladies from parking lots does not actually help with anything. […]

    As the Montgomery Advisor article cited in the Snopes article explains:

    [E]xperts say these stories — young girls snatched from their mothers in broad daylight, stalked in crowded supermarkets and kidnapped across the U.S. border — aren’t true.

    And worse, spreading them can hurt, not help, efforts to dismantle human trafficking.

    Traffickers are too smart to try to snatch unwitting victims from grocery store parking lots and city parks, authorities say, despite urban legends that continue to circulate on social media. Though there are some cases of kidnapping in human trafficking operations, they are relatively rare. Some victims are coerced or forced into trafficking through familial or romantic relationships … Tuscaloosa Police Department Lt. Darren Beams said he’s encountered victims who were promised money for college from a part-time job, only to become trapped in a trafficking ring. Victims most at risk [are] those without familial or community resources to turn to, or those fearful of authorities.

    The belief in freakishly competent criminal networks who lure unsuspecting churchgoing women with cheese or ship children in Wayfair cabinets or build secret tunnels underneath daycare centers for the purpose of molesting children doesn’t help anyone, least of all victims. Neither did “Stranger Danger,” which had kids and parents looking out for nefarious strangers rather than people they knew […]

    So now we can clear the good name of cheese, which is delicious and not a danger to anyone who is not lactose intolerant.

    Link

  135. says

    Wonkette: “‘Macho Jesus’-Loving Trump Prophet Kicked Out Of Own Church For ‘Unbiblical Behavior'”

    […] The last time we encountered Jeff Jansen, he was talking about how he believed in a Big Tough Macho Jesus who went around whipping people on the regular.

    Alas, it seems like his prediction on who would be getting kicked out of office was a little off — because on Friday, his church, Global Fire Ministries International sent out an email announcing that Jansen himself would be stepping down himself, due to “unbiblical behavior,” and “bad moral choices and coping mechanisms.” Taking over the ministry is his wife, Jan Jansen, who almost definitely wrote the email herself.

    Well, at least the part that read “[r]ather than submit to the process of healing and restoration, Jeff recently made an intentional decision to leave his wife and family to pursue his own desires. He remains unrepentant and unremorseful”

    [Full text of email is available at the link.]

    […] One would think that someone who regularly chats with God about the ins and outs of US politics would have gotten some kind of heads up that his own behavior was about to get him kicked out of his church, but apparently that never came up.

    Jan Jensen also wrote another email further explaining her husband’s behavior.

    Via Newsweek:

    “Unfortunately, Jeff struggled for many years dealing with the stress and warfare of his travels. Being a high-level, recognized minister, this led to poor choices in coping mechanisms. I don’t believe he was strong enough to withstand what was coming at him because of his very public stand for President Trump and against the dark side. When you take a stand like that, you must have no cracks in your armor. Jeff never really humbled himself enough to get healing for his soul and seal the cracks,” she wrote.

    Jan Jansen reiterated that her husband had chosen to leave her and his children to “pursue his own desires.” She wrote that it “grieves me and breaks my heart to have to announce this, and I just pray to healing over you as I say it.” She asked supporters to “pray” for her husband and said that he “will wake up and seek full restoration.”

    Sure, Jan. Your husband was so distraught over left-wing blogs making fun of him and his love of Macho Jesus and Donald Trump that he was driven to leave you and do a bunch of “unbiblical behavior.” We are entirely to blame here. Surely, if no one had pointed out that Donald Trump had not been elected president again as he predicted, he would have remained completely holy. It’s hardly as if other well-known socially conservative preachers have ever done anything like this before. Except for literally every single one we have ever heard of — including Ernest Angley, the homophobic evangelical preacher known to sexually harass his male subordinates, who died on Friday at the age of 99.

    Of course, if we could get a Jimmy Swaggart-style sobbing video, that would be super great, thanks.

    Link

  136. blf says

    Lynna@155, At mention of cheese trafficking, the mild deranged penguin stopped trying to trafficeat my after-dinner cheesees, and pointed put that real cheese abusers have secret caves underneath pizza parlours where they make bamboo-stuffed ballots to be added to the vaccines in your microchips. They wouldn’t be wasting the bamboo on melted cars to alert gullible eejits.

  137. says

    Arizona Audit Will ‘Indefinitely Defer’ Voter Interview Plans Over Intimidation Concerns Raised By DOJ

    […] State Senate President Karen Fann (R) said in a letter to the Department of Justice Friday that the door-to-door effort to interview voters as part of an audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results would not go forward after federal officials raised concerns that the canvassing could violate civil rights laws protecting against voter intimidation.

    The audit has persisted amid former President Donald Trump’s ongoing promotion of the lie of a stolen election, even as county officials say the 2020 election results which favored President Joe Biden have been validated repeatedly.

    The head of the department’s civil rights division, Pamela Karlan, had written to Fann on Wednesday suggesting that the recount by Cyber Ninjas, a Florida-based firm contracted by the state Senate to conduct the recount may not comply with federal law.

    In the letter Karlan cited concerns over “risk of damage or loss” to the nearly 2.1 million ballots and raised questions about Cyber Ninjas’ stated plans to “statistically identify voter registrations that did not make sense” and conduct interviews with voters by phone and “physical canvassing.”

    “Such investigative efforts can have a significant intimidating effect on qualified voters that can deter them from seeking to vote in the future,” Karlan wrote.

    She also said similar investigation efforts around the country had “raised concerns that they can be directed at minority voters, which potentially can implicate the anti-intimidation prohibitions of the Voting Rights Act.”

    Cyber Ninjas had said it put together a “registration and votes cast team” which had plans to knock on doors to confirm if valid voters lived at their stated address.

    According to the Arizona Republic, Doug Logan, the company’s chief executive, declined to reveal during a press conference late last month how the company had gone about selecting which voters it would investigate. […]

    […] Fann left open the possibility of canvassing at a later date but said voters would not be selected based on characteristics like race, ethnicity, gender, or party affiliation.

    She also said canvassers would not carry a weapon [Say, what now!?]

    “If canvassing is necessary to complete the audit, we believe these protocols, which will be reinforced by thorough training programs, would permit the Senate to discharge its legislative oversight and investigation functions without compromising the rights or privacy of any voter,” Fann wrote. [Bullshit]

    While successive audits of last year’s election results have continued to show there is no evidence of widespread election fraud, the state Senate’s sweeping audit has lended legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories made by right-wing activists — to the point that auditors have employed UV search lights and have reportedly scanned ballots for flecks of bamboo fibers.

  138. says

    A Sunday soul serenade for Mama’s Day

    The origin of Mother’s Day as we celebrate it dates back to a woman named Anna Jarvis, in West Virginia, in 1905, who wound up fighting against the commercialization of the holiday she established. We’re here to offer you a musical alternative, or a supplement to cards and flowers on this #BlackMusicSunday. We’ll be listening to musical tributes to moms from Black artists across genres. These are songs for moms, grandmas, aunties, and godmothers too—for the moms who gave us life, and the moms who may not have birthed us but raised us.

    Happy Mother’s day y’all!

    I felt moved to open today with Ray Charles, whose music crossed the borders of multiple genres, from blues, to gospel, to soul, to R&B and country-western. Hearing him makes me think of my grandmother from Kansas, who was the country and gospel fan in our home.

    Born on September 30, 1930 in Albany, Georgia, Charles was raised in extreme poverty in Greenville, Florida. “Even compared to other blacks, we were on the bottom of the ladder looking up at everyone else,” Charles recalled in his autobiography, Brother Ray. “Nothing below us except the ground.”

    Charles persevered over the personal tragedies that marked his early life. He contracted glaucoma at age 5, lost his sight completely by age 7, and lost his parents soon thereafter. In spite of these hardships, Charles learned to read and write music in Braille, and became skilled on several musical instruments at the St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind. Charles later told Jet Magazine that his mother’s advice guided him through life. “You might not be able to do things like a person who can see. But there are always two ways to do everything. You’ve just got to find the other way.

    Charles attributes much of what he achieved in life to the early influence of his mom, who he talked about in this interview with the National Visionary Leadership Project [Video available at the link]

    […] Here’s his song “Mother” from the album Thanks For Bringing Love Around Again, which was the last album released in his lifetime. [video is available at the link]

    Much more at the link, including “La Mamma,” biographical snippets and music Kirk Franklin, songs of praise for adoptive parents, “Sadie” by the The Spinners (one of my favorites), and more.

    […] Segueing to another key Philadelphia group, one can’t forget the importance of The Intruders, who were instrumental to the birth of “Philly Soul.” Their hit “I’ll Always Love My Mama” was about legendary producer Kenny Gamble’s mother […]

    Shifting cities, we’ll end in Chicago, with one of the greatest bands of all time, who blended soul, rock, funk, and rhythm into a group who would become known as EWF—Earth, Wind & Fire. I featured them for the holidays in 2019. Included on Last Days and Time, was EWF’s recording of “Mom,” which was also released as a single. […]

  139. says

    […] “Right now, it’s basically the Titanic. We’re like, you know, in this in the middle of this slow sink, we have a band playing on the deck telling everybody it’s fine. And meanwhile, as I’ve said, you know, Donald Trump’s running around trying to find women’s clothing and get on the first lifeboat,” Kinzger [GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger, from Illinois] said.

    “And I think there’s a few of us that are just saying ‘guys this is not good,’ not just for the future of the party, but this is not good for the future of this country,” he added.

    Kinzinger also zeroed in on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) comments regarding former President Trump’s role in the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, adding that Cheney has been consistent.

    “Liz Cheney is saying exactly what Kevin McCarthy said the day of the insurrection. She’s just consistently been saying it. And a few weeks later, Kevin McCarthy changed to attacking the other people,” Kinzinger said. […]

    Link

  140. says

    A car bombing outside has left nearly 70 people dead and 165 wounded in Kabul on Saturday, Reuters reported.

    The first bomb was detonated in front of the Sayed Al-Shuhada school with two more bombs exploding as students tried to flee the scene.

    Reuters reported that most of the deceased were school girls with some families still searching for their children at hospitals. […]

    Link

  141. blf says

    Nasa / JPL’s Mars helicopter Ingenuity has successfully completed its fifth flight, a one-way hop of about 130 metres to a new landing site. Before touching down, it flew to an altitude of 10 metres (highest ever) to take series of images of the surroundings and new landing field. This is the last of its flight-demo flights, transitioning into its new aerial-scouting-demo flight mission (“operations demonstration”).

    On the fourth flight, the Perseverance rover’s science microphone was turned on and succeeded in capturing the sound of Ingenuity flying on Mars, NASA’s Perseverance Rover Hears Ingenuity Mars Helicopter in Flight (video (obviously with audio)). That hadn’t been attempted previously since the microphone had neither been designed nor tested to avoid interference with rover–helicopter communications. On-Earth analysis showed it would be safe, and despite being 80 or more metres away from the rover, the sound was detected in the very thin Martian atmosphere.

  142. says

    In India’s surge, a religious gathering attended by millions helped the virus spread.

    Washington Post link

    As coronavirus cases in India shot upward last month, millions of people converged on the Ganges River to bathe at a holy spot offering a chance at salvation.

    When the pilgrims returned to their homes across the country, some brought the virus with them.

    The precise role of the Hindu religious festival — the Kumbh Mela — in India’s raging outbreak is impossible to know in the absence of contact tracing. But the event was one source of infections as cases skyrocketed […]

    More than 414,000 new cases were reported in India on Friday, a global record. About 4,000 people are dying a day, but such figures are an undercount. Experts believe the number of fatalities will rise in coming days, since deaths from covid-19 lag behind new cases. [chart available at the link]

    […] The combination of an enormous wave of coronavirus cases and one of the biggest mass gatherings on the planet has fueled criticism that India’s government should have curtailed the religious event or canceled it altogether. Last year, when India had just several hundred coronavirus cases, the government swiftly imposed a nationwide lockdown.

    The Kumbh Mela “may end up being the biggest superspreader in the history of this pandemic,” said Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University […]. “It brought so many people together from across India.” […]

  143. says

    Elon Musk reveals he has Asperger’s syndrome during SNL monologue

    YouTube link

    “I’m pretty good at running ‘human’ in emulation mode.”

    From the Washington Post:

    The stars of “Saturday Night Live” were well aware that there was plenty of controversy leading up to Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s stint as host — and made sure to address it during the broadcast.

    “A space rocket that was spinning out of control just minutes ago crashed into the ocean. And for once, we know it’s not Elon’s fault,” Colin Jost said during “Weekend Update,” referencing the debris from a Chinese space rocket booster that reentered the Earth’s atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. “A lot of people have been wondering: Why is he hosting our show? And now we know it’s because he needed an alibi.”

    Indeed, that was a question ever since the controversial billionaire — who gained even more notoriety recently by spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic and downplaying the risks — was announced as SNL host. Even several cast members did not seem thrilled about this decision, and a source told Page Six that creator Lorne Michaels would excuse anyone who didn’t want to participate in the episode.

    SNL announced Elon Musk as a host. The disgust on Twitter may be just what the show is after.

    Yet even though Musk tried to tease that something controversial might happen (“Let’s find out just how live ‘Saturday Night Live’ really is,” he tweeted with a devil emoji), the show proceeded mostly as usual. After a very earnest Mother’s Day opening sketch, in which the cast appeared with their moms as musical guest Miley Cyrus sang a cover of her godmother Dolly Parton’s “Light of a Clear Blue Morning,” Musk arrived for his monologue.

    “I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL,” he said, to much applause from the audience. “Or at least the first to admit it. So I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running ‘human’ in emulation mode.”

    […] former SNL cast member Dan Aykroyd, who returned to host in 2003, has spoken out over the years about his Asperger’s diagnosis as a child.

    Then Musk attempted to explain his tweets, known to have quite an impact on the stock market. “Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things, but that’s just how my brain works. To anyone I’ve offended, I just want to say: I reinvented electric cars and I’m sending people to Mars on a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?”

    […] He also appeared on “Weekend Update” as a financial adviser, and Jost and Michael Che repeatedly demanded to know an explanation for Dogecoin, the meme-based cryptocurrency that counts Musk among its biggest fans.

    “It’s the future of currency. It’s an unstoppable financial vehicle that’s going to take over the world,” Musk explained.

    “I get that, but what is it, man?!” Che asked.

    “I keep telling you, it’s the crypto currency you can trade for conventional money,” Musk explained.

    “Oh, so it’s a hustle?” Che said.

    “Yeah,” Musk said. “It’s a hustle.”

  144. blf says

    For too many girls, teenage years are a time of unwanted attention from older men:

    A viral TikTok video captured an everyday reality reflected in the allegations against Matt Gaetz […]

    At first the girl is animated and fast-talking, gesturing with her hands as she speaks to the camera. She’s wearing a tie-dye shirt that hangs cavernously around her thin frame; her long blond hair is stick straight. She speaks with the unrestrained enthusiasm of a kid. Later, I learn that she is 18. When the man approaches her, just out of frame, at first she thinks he just wants to take one of the empty chairs that is at her table and drag it away somewhere else; she’s in the courtyard of the motel where she’s staying with her mom, and she’s sitting at one of the outdoor tables alone. But he doesn’t want to take the chair, he wants to sit down in it. The man never enters the frame, but we can tell he is older, and he must be much bigger than she is: the girl, still seated, cranes her face to look up at him. The calm confidence behind her large glasses snuffs out; her shoulders tense up, rising toward her ears. He’s trying to sleep with her. Off camera, the man can be heard commenting on the girl’s visible discomfort. I see your hesitancy, he says. On the screen, the caption the girl eventually added to the video reveals that she has given him a fake name. Eventually, she reveals to him that she is taping. “I’m just doing a live and talking to some people,” she says, and glances towards her phone. That’s when he finally leaves her alone: not when he notices that she’s uncomfortable, but when he realizes that he is being watched.

    […]

    Those early experiences of male sexual aggression are maybe one of the most reliable rites of passage for female children. It’s more common than any of the other rituals that signal impending adulthood, more universal than the bat mitzvahs, or quinceañeras, or sweet sixteen parties, or proms. By the time a girl reaches any of these milestones, she has likely already developed a skill set for navigating the unwanted attention of adult men, and started to learn the delicate balance of signaling their own lack of interest, or of curtailing men’s interest, without escalating. Sometimes mothers will speak to their daughters about these incidents and how to defuse them, but more often girls are told to understand the approaches as flattering, or left to navigate them with little more than their own instincts and the commiseration of their similarly young and confused friends.

    The message that all of this sends to young girls is that womanhood is a state that consists largely of receiving unsolicited male attention, much of it benign but much of it threatening, exploitative or hostile, and that their ownership over their own bodies, their ability to peacefully occupy public space, and their right to be perceived as the children that they are can all be abridged by the whims of a man’s desire. When the Florida politician Joel Greenberg discovered that one of the women he and Congressman Matt Gaetz were allegedly paying for sex was not a woman but a girl at 17 years old, Greenberg, according to reporting by the Daily Beast, told the girl that she was at fault. She apologized and recognized that by lying about her age, she endangered many people, Greenberg wrote. This, too, is one of the surest signs that a girl is becoming a woman: suddenly, she finds herself being held responsible for men’s actions.

  145. says

    New York Times:

    Vaccinations are picking up pace in the European Union, a stunning turnaround after the bloc’s immunization drive stalled for months.

    On average over the last week, nearly three million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine were being administered each day in the European Union, a group of 27 nations, according to Our World in Data, a University of Oxford database. Adjusted for population, the rate is roughly equivalent to the number of shots given each day in the United States, where demand has been falling.

    The E.U. vaccination campaign, marred by disruptions in supplies of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines, pivoted last month to rely heavily on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

    Last month, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said that Pfizer had agreed to an early shipment of doses that she said should likely allow the bloc to reach its goal of inoculating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer. The European Union is also on the verge of announcing a deal with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 2022 and 2023 that will lock in 1.8 billion doses for boosters, variants and children’s vaccines.

    The United States moved aggressively under the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed to procure millions of doses by funding and prodding vaccine production. But the European Union, rather than partnering with drugmakers as the United States did, acted more like a customer than an investor.

    “I think it is overdue that the E.U. has stepped up their vaccination campaign,” said Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Center at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

    “I think in the context of the rate of deaths we’ve seen and new cases we’ve seen in the E.U., it is absolutely vital that we get the vaccine to people there very, very quickly,” she added.

    The E.U.’s increase underscores the global disparities in vaccination efforts.

    About 83 percent of Covid shots have been given in high- and upper-middle-income countries, while only 0.3 percent of doses have been given in low-income countries. In North America, more than 30 percent of people have received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data. In Europe, the figure is nearly 24 percent. In Africa, it’s slightly more than one percent.

    Experts warn that if the virus can run rampant in much of the world, untamed by vaccines, dangerous variants will continue to evolve and spread, threatening all countries.

  146. blf says

    Follow-up to @116, The US restaurant industry is lacking in wages, not workers:

    […]
    Among the things Americans say they’re looking forward to most when pandemic-related restrictions ends is “having dinner in a restaurant with friends”. But if the restaurant industry doesn’t support higher wages, there will be fewer restaurants for customers to return to.

    There is an unprecedented shortage of job applicants for restaurant jobs. In a new survey this week by One Fair Wage of more than 2,800 workers, more than half (53%) reported that they are thinking about leaving restaurants. More than three-quarters of workers surveyed (76%) said they are leaving restaurants because of low wages and tips — by far the most important reason for leaving — and a slightly higher percentage (78%) said that the factor that would make them stay in restaurants is a “full, stable, livable wage”.

    So this isn’t, as many industry representatives would have you believe, a shortage of workers. It’s a wage shortage that is racist and sexist in that it disproportionately affects women and people of color, and is a legacy of slavery. It is created by the narrow-sighted greed of the industry and its trade lobby, the National Restaurant Association, which has a history of fighting against fair wages since it was formed by white restaurant owners in 1919.

    There are, in fact, plenty of qualified and experienced restaurant workers, many or even most of whom were laid off and left destitute over the last year. The National Restaurant Association is now, for the most part, a conglomerate of corporate chain restaurants and a powerful lobby. As part of its transparent but sadly effective (until now, at least), propaganda campaign, members of “The Other NRA”, as many call it, have suggested that workers would rather stay home and collect unemployment than take jobs as they become available.

    But that’s not true: more than half of unemployed restaurant workers were denied unemployment insurance during the pandemic, largely because their base pay was too low to qualify, according to the One Fair Wage survey. In fact, those fortunate enough to receive unemployment benefits would immediately lose them if they turned down work; that’s how unemployment insurance works. Their low pay is the result of the sub-minimum wage laws for tipped workers (still $2.13 per hour at the federal level), the very same laws that the NRA has spent millions of dollars, over decades, lobbying to keep in place.

    […] Had Congress continued to increase the minimum wage in line with productivity growth of the last few decades, the minimum wage today would be around $24 an hour, which actually approaches its stated intent, a livable wage. […] Black women working for tips in restaurants make $4.79 an hour less than their white male counterparts.

    […]

    Being unwilling to risk health and welfare for poverty wages doesn’t make restaurant workers lazy; rather, it makes them smart, cautious and strategic, even if they’re desperate for work. […]

    The simple question is: where is the relief for workers?

    Because, so far, a Congress still overwhelmingly dominated by anti-worker white men, has failed to pass the Raise the Wage Act, which would end the sub-minimum wage and establish the full, fair federal wage for all workers to $15 an hour, with tips on top when appropriate. It is difficult not to see this failure to end a direct legacy of slavery as racist.

    […] Restaurants are only as wonderful as the people who work in them. And to truly save the restaurant industry — not just its owners — we have to ensure that restaurant workers are paid a full, fair livable wage.

  147. says

    You know that issue where bigots aren’t going to be happy in their own space because they want to go and dominate what they don’t like? That’s happening in real time on the nextdoor politics board I’m in. The Trumpkins went and made their own board and made implied assertions about the original board in posts about the new board, but just can’t stay away.

    Now to figure out more characteristics of the situation.

    @Lynna 142
    Interesting. I’ve seen and engaged with that general political gossip method used by Trump using the word “they” in his supporters. I hope it gets more attention.

  148. blf says

    Fight to feminise French language enters new round (video) (France24 edits in {curly braces}):

    The ongoing battle to make the French language kinder to women — or at least take better account of their existence in French society — lost some ground this week as France’s education ministry came down against one form of gender-inclusive writing as an existential threat to the language of Molière. But proponents of more inclusive French also made significant gains.

    Warning that the well-being of France and its future are at stake, the government banned the use in schools of a method increasingly used by some French speakers to make the language more inclusive by feminising some words.

    Specifically, the education minister’s decree targets what is arguably the most contested and politicised letter in the French language — “e.” Simply put, “e” is the language’s feminine letter, used in feminine nouns and their adjectives and, sometimes, when conjugating verbs.

    But proponents of women’s rights are also increasingly adding “e” to words that normally wouldn’t have included that letter, in a conscious — and divisive — effort to make women more visible.

    Take the generic French word for leaders — “dirigeants” — for example. For some, that masculine spelling suggests that they are generally men and makes women leaders invisible, because it lacks a feminine “e” toward the end. For proponents of inclusive writing, a more gender-equal spelling is “dirigeant·es,” inserting the extra “e,” preceded by a middle dot, to make clear that leaders can be of both sexes.

    Likewise, they might write “les élu·es” — instead of the generic masculine “élus” — for the holders of elected office, again to highlight that women are elected, too. Or they might use “les idiot·es,” instead of the usual generic masculine “les idiots,” to acknowledge that stupidity isn’t the exclusive preserve of men.

    Éliane Viennot, a historian and literature professor at Jean-Monnet University in Saint-Étienne, told FRANCE 24 in February that similar contractions have long been commonplace in French paperwork, most notably identity cards, which use the form “Né(e)” — for born — to introduce one’s date of birth.

    “Critics obsess over an abbreviation — the median point — which feminists didn’t even invent,” she argued. “The feminist contribution is to have looked for a more appropriate sign, since the use of parentheses conveys a lesser degree of importance.”

    [… F]or the government of centrist President Emmanuel Macron, the use of “·e” threatens the very fabric of France. Speaking in a Senate debate on the issue on Thursday, a deputy education minister said inclusive writing is a danger for our country and will sound the death knell for the use of French in the world.

    By challenging traditional norms of French usage, inclusive writing makes the language harder to learn, penalising pupils with learning difficulties, the minister, Nathalie Elimas, argued.

    Absolute nonsense. One reason my French is shite is because I cannot get my head around the idea words must have a “gender”. (That and verb conjugation, another minefield.) In the video embedded at the link, the academic expert (Éliane Viennot?) interviewed makes essentially the same point: The gendering makes the language more difficult to learn. She postulates that’s one reason for the resistance to the change, people who have managed to learn the gendering are reluctant to learn some “new” rules.

    Plus a significant dose of the traditional French paranoia about English:

    It dislocates words, breaks them into two, she said. With the spread of inclusive writing, the English language — already quasi-hegemonic across the world — would certainly and perhaps forever defeat the French language.

    [… examples of similar arguments in other European countries over their native languages…]

    The French Education Ministry circular that banished the “·e” formula from schools did, however, accept other more inclusive changes in language that highlight women.

    They include systematically feminising job titles for women — like “présidente,” instead of “président,” or “ambassadrice” rather than “ambassadeur” for women ambassadors. It also encouraged the simultaneous use of both masculine and feminine forms to emphasise that roles are filled by both sexes. So a job posting in a school, for example, should say that it will go to “le candidat ou la candidate” — man or woman — who is best qualified to fill it.

    Until recently, many job titles didn’t even have a feminine form in France, at least not for the Académie française, the overwhelmingly male language watchdog, which only dropped its insistence on calling female presidents “Madame le président” two years ago.

    Raphael Haddad, the author of a French-language guide on inclusive writing, said that section of the new education ministry circular represented progress for the cause of women in French.

    “It’s a huge step forward, disguised as a ban,” he said. “What’s happening to the France language is the same thing that happened in the United States, with ‘chairman’ replaced by ‘chairperson,’ {and} ‘’fireman’ by ‘firefighter.’”

    My own example is a term I’ve introduced at every company I worked for post-University: “workhour(s)” (and “workday(s)”, etc.), as a replacement for the sexist (and also frequently dubiously-applied concept (a different issue)) “manhour(s)” — the number of hours used or expected to be used on some task, allowing for interruptions, other tasks, contingencies, holidays / vacations, etc. A workhour is some fraction of a clock-measured (real) hour, the exact percentage depending on the individual, their other tasks, and other factors. (Another possibility is “personhour(s)”, but similar to the cited “firefighter” example, “workhour(s)” (IMHO) describes what is being discussed, and avoids any misconstruing of the -son — albeit “workhour(s)” can be misconstrued as meaning the times when one is “clocked on” (not really a problem for me as I’m salaried, not paid by-the-clock).)

    (What I’ve never had any success in introducing is error bars on workhour(s) estimates — for some reason, they always freak the managers out.)

  149. says

    Brony @169, yeah it was good to see faux journalists at the White House press conference called out on their use of “they say,” or “lots of people say.” Who is “they”? If there’s no specific answer to that, then you know that a straw-man is the foundation of the bogus argument.

    blf @168, thanks for that thorough report. It highlights the real problems.

    In other news, “A Pennsylvania Lawmaker and the Resurgence of Christian Nationalism.”

    New Yorker link

    How Doug Mastriano’s rise embodies the spread of a movement centered on the belief that God intended America to be a Christian nation.

    Doug Mastriano, a Republican state senator from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and parts of neighboring counties, was a little-known figure in state politics before the coronavirus pandemic. But, in the past year, he has led rallies against mask mandates and other public-health protocols, which he has characterized as “the governor’s autocratic control over our lives.” He has become a leader of the Stop the Steal campaign, and claims that he spoke to Donald Trump at least fifteen times between the 2020 election and the insurrection at the Capitol, on January 6th. He urged his followers to attend the rally at the Capitol that led to the riots, saying, “I’m really praying that God will pour His Spirit upon Washington, D.C., like we’ve never seen before.” Throughout this time, he has cast the fight against both lockdowns and Trump’s electoral loss as a religious battle against the forces of evil. He has come to embody a set of beliefs characterized as Christian nationalism, which center on the idea that God intended America to be a Christian nation, and which, when mingled with conspiracy theory and white nationalism, helped to fuel the insurrection. “Violence has always been a part of Christian nationalism,” Andrew Whitehead, a sociologist and co-author of “Taking America Back for God,” told me. […]

    Mastriano grew up mostly in New Jersey, in a military family, and attended Eastern College, a Christian university outside Philadelphia. After he graduated, in 1986, he joined the military, and, as a junior intelligence officer, was stationed at the border of West Germany and Czechoslovakia. Mastriano, like many conservative Christians, came to see the Cold War as a spiritual campaign, applying religious notions of good and evil to U.S. foreign policy. […]

    In 1991, as the Cold War was winding down, Mastriano was deployed to Iraq to fight in the Gulf War. He believed that he was on the front lines of a new religious conflict, this time against radical Islam. Mastriano’s wife, Rebecca, knew little about his posting, which was classified, and gathered people to engage in what she called “spiritual warfare,” praying that he would prevail against evil on the battlefield. [snipped tall take claiming God sent a sandstorm to save Mastriano]

    […] For the next three decades, he continued to serve in military intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he appears to have developed a dim view of Islam. In recent years, he has often spread Islamophobic memes online. In one, he spread a conspiracy theory that Ilhan Omar, the Democratic congresswoman from Minnesota, directed fellow-Muslims to throw a five-year-old over a balcony. […] he encouraged the idea that the fire at the Notre-Dame cathedral, in Paris, was started by Muslims […]

    In 2019, after retiring […], Mastriano decided to run for office. “Our freedoms are being encroached,” […] He soon began attending events held by a movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, a loosely linked network of charismatics and Pentecostals that, over the past decade, has played an influential role in conservative American circles. […] Many members believe that God speaks to them directly, and that they have been tasked with battling real-world demons who control global leaders. […]

    The N.A.R.’s overarching agenda—to return the United States to an idealized Christian past—is largely built upon the work of the pseudo-historian David Barton, who has advanced the idea that America was founded as a Christian nation. […] Bills that Mastriano supported in the legislature would have mandated teaching the Bible in public schools and would have made it legal for adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples, among other things.

    […] On nightly Facebook fireside chats, he suggested that his viewers find new congregations if their pastors weren’t leading in-person worship services. He gained increasingly extreme followers; last June, at a gun-rights protest on the steps of the state capitol, he posed for pictures with white men in fatigues carrying AR-15s and several others in Hawaiian shirts, a hallmark of the Boogaloo Bois, a white-nationalist militia. […]

    “Christian nationalism doesn’t exist,” Franklin Graham, the evangelical leader, told me, calling it “just another name to throw at Christians.” He added, “The left is very good at calling people names.” […] But historians and sociologists have found the term useful to describe an undercurrent of nativist religion that runs through American history. [snipped supporting details]

    “In the early two-thousands, among conservative pastors, you’d often hear that the gays are softening up our society in preparation for Islam,” Michelle Goldberg, the author of “Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism,” told me.

    The election of Donald Trump intensified certain strains of Christian nationalism. He fanned fears of pluralism with Islamophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric. […] “The greatest ethnic dog whistle the right has ever come up with is ‘Christian,’ because it means ‘people like us,’ it means white,” Samuel Perry, a sociologist at the University of Oklahoma and co-author of “Taking America Back For God,” told me. […]

    “The tactic has been to use Christian nationalism to cool down the idea of fascism without losing the fascism,” Ross said. For example, after the white-nationalist organization Identity Evropa was dissolved, a former leader aligned himself with America First, a movement to make America a “white Christian nation.” (America First was one of the most prominent groups at the Capitol insurrection.)

    A long-standing distrust of educational institutions and the mainstream media, coupled with a tradition of anti-intellectualism, has also left white evangelicals vulnerable to conspiracy theory. […] QAnon, which holds that America must be saved from a cabal of pedophilic Democrats, speaks of believers as an “elect,” and references Scripture and end-times theology. […]

    As a result, during Trump’s Presidency, many white evangelicals came to believe that his government, the one chosen by God, was under threat from an internal enemy: a shadowy conspiracy of leftists. And, when Trump started claiming that the 2020 election had been stolen from him, many evangelicals took up the call. […]

    [Mastriano] appeared on Steve Bannon’s radio show, “War Room,” as well as on a right-wing Christian show called “The Eric Metaxas Radio Show,” during which Trump called in and said, “Doug is a hero!” In Pennsylvania, Mastriano supported a barrage of lawsuits and a bid to appoint special electors. […]

    On December 12th, Mastriano returned to Washington, D.C., to participate in a series of “Jericho Marches” organized by leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation in which conservative Christians, among a hodgepodge of QAnon followers and white nationalists, gathered to pray that God would keep Trump in office. Alex Jones, of Infowars, attended, as did members of the Oath Keepers militia. […]

    Two days before the Capitol riots, Mastriano said that he was heading to Washington, D.C., and “calling out to God for divine revelation.” He used campaign funds to charter six buses to shuttle followers to Washington, D.C., and told them that he would speak on the Capitol steps. Around 1 p.m., rioters broke into the Capitol, some wielding Bibles, “Jesus 2020” signs, “An Appeal to Heaven” flags, and shofars. […]

    Later that evening, Mastriano appeared on Facebook Live for his fireside chat, looking spooked. He told viewers that he had left the Capitol after he saw things “get weird,” saying, “When it was apparent that this was no longer a peaceful protest, my wife and I left the area.” Mastriano later told a radio interviewer that he stayed long enough to witness both the first and second breaches of the building. […]

    Brian Sims, a Democratic state representative, has called for Mastriano to be court-martialed. “He’s not just a preacher screaming from the rooftops. He has been trained in subterfuge and destabilization in military intelligence for other countries. Mirroring those actions here is very, very dangerous,” he said.

    […] Christian-nationalist ideas don’t seem to be receding. “There’s been a doubling down,” Perry, the sociology professor, told me. […] The majority of white evangelicals still believe that the Presidential election was illegitimate. (Around sixty-eight per cent also believe that the January 6th insurrection was the work of Black Lives Matter and Antifa.) […] Christian nationalism is well positioned to become more dominant in the Republican Party, cloaking Trump’s inflammatory xenophobia in religious language that may be more broadly palatable.

    Mastriano […] continues to push Trump’s claims of a stolen election, and has introduced legislation to limit mail-in voting in the state. […] He appears to be preparing to run for governor in 2022. “He’s built this relationship with Donald Trump that I don’t think any other Republican in Pennsylvania has,” J. J. Abbott, the executive director of Commonwealth Communications […] told me.

    […] On a Monday afternoon in February, at the statehouse, Mastriano stood at a lectern, wearing a gray suit and a yellow tie, and gave a speech celebrating the first day of the Fast of Jonah. He spoke of the Assyrian Christians who were forced by ISIS to flee Iraq, and compared them to early American settlers […] Following Mastriano’s speech, Tim Kearney, a Democratic state senator, addressed his colleagues via Zoom. He called for further investigation into Mastriano’s role in inciting violence at the Capitol […] “If you call for a death match with your political opponents, you cannot be surprised when people turn to violence.”

  150. says

    blf @170, I see no problem with making some changes to the French language in order to more equally represent both men and women. I would not call it feminizing … it is more like equalizing. I like the use of “workhour(s)” —that makes sense.

  151. says

    House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) talked some sense today during an interview on CNN.

    […] Clyburn turned his focus to McConnell’s remark last week that “100 percent of my focus is standing up to [the Biden] administration” — a remark the Senate minority leader made when he dodged a question about [Liz] Cheney and her tumult within the GOP.

    After criticizing McConnell’s comments in 2010 saying that Republican Party’s goal was for then-President Obama to be a one-term president, Clyburn decried McConnell’s “personal animus toward Democrats that ought not be” and blamed the Senate minority leader for the GOP “losing its way.”

    “We are one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Let’s operate like that,” Clyburn said. “This Republican Party is losing its way on all fronts. And Mitch McConnell is contributing to that in a big way.”

    Most prominent Republicans have refused to throw their support behind Cheney as she continues to warn the party against feeding into Trump’s false claims of a stolen election.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has repeatedly refused to go to bat for Cheney amid Republicans’ outrage in the aftermath of her vote to impeach Trump.

    Like McCarthy, House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) has also openly boosted Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) in a bid to replace Cheney as conference chair.

    https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/clyburn-mcconnell-gop-losing-its-way

    Video of the interview is available at the link.

  152. blf says

    Republicans cry big tech bias — on the very platforms they have dominated (my added emboldening):

    Ted Cruz and his allies have spent years criticizing Facebook, even as the network was propelling Donald Trump to victory

    When Donald Trump’s ban from Facebook was upheld this week, the howls of bias could be heard from Republicans far and wide. Those shrieks, ironically, came mostly on social media.

    Republicans have spent recent years criticizing Facebook and Twitter, demonizing them as biased against the right. But they, not Democrats, have been the most enthusiastic embracers of social media, and the most successful in harnessing its potential[its designed-in intention of harassing and lying].

    Between 1 January and 15 December last year, right-leaning Facebook pages accounted for 45% of all interactions on Facebook, according to a study by Media Matters for America [MMFA], a progressive non-profit which monitors US media.

    […]

    The years-long dominance on Facebook has translated to notable successes — most memorably in 2016, when Donald Trump’s win was propelled by his social media reach. “Facebook and Twitter were the reason we won this thing,” Brad Parscale, the digital director of the 2016 Trump campaign, said in the aftermath of the election.

    “Twitter for Mr Trump. And Facebook for fundraising.”

    […]

    Those successes appeared to have been forgotten in the last week, when prominent Republicans […], condemned Facebook in particular. […]

    If the big tech oligarchs can muzzle the former president, what’s to stop them from silencing you? Cruz said. [I note Cruz slipped up here and called hair furor the former White House occupant –blf]

    If they can ban President Trump, all conservative voices could be next. A House Republican majority will rein in big tech power over our speech, was McCarthy’s take[fearmongering].

    Cruz and other Republicans have been accusing Facebook of bias for years — even as the platform was propelling Trump to victory, while being criticized on the left for being slow to remove rightwing lies or conspiracy theories.

    “Because Republicans have such a disproportionate amount of influence on these platforms and engagement, the real effect is that by constantly crying bias, it works the refs in such that they don’t enforce the rules against them in a consistent way,” Angelo Carusone, the president of MMFA, said.

    […]

    “It’s part of the overall strategy of playing the victim,” [author of How To Go Viral and Reach Millions and editor-in-chief of Front Page Live, a news site “dedicated to elevating fact-based stories”, Joe] Romm said. “Donald Trump showed that it’s part of the overall strategy of: accuse your opponents of doing what you’re doing before they can accuse you.

    “And so it just makes it so much harder, because if you accuse them first, then when progressives then accurately say: ‘Oh, we’re being disadvantaged on social media,’ no one is going to believe it, because they bought into this big lie that the conservatives are being punished on social media.”

    As Republicans have cried foul, several rightwing politicians have even written books about such perceived bias — the most recent by Missouri senator Josh Hawley, a millionaire Yale law school graduate turned earthy, blue collar, man of the people.

    […]

    The claims of conservative bias are only like to continue as the 2022 midterms approach, but experts sayany [sic] bias is actually against the other side.

    “I would say that, in fact, big tech right now is biased against liberals — the thumb is on the scale for those who put out the rightwing lies,” Romm said.

    “The thing that the social media apps want to do is keep you on their site. That’s what they care about. They don’t care about the truth, they care about keeping you on their site. [Which is a reasonably good summary of why I refer to them as, e.g., factsborked, &tc, and refuse to have an account, and (generally) try to avoid them altogether — I’m “allegoric” to deliberate intentional lying, not to mention the tracking, commercialisation of “me” (the (captive) user is their “product” (how they make their money)), &tc –blf]

    […]

    “I think the right will leverage this moment to make big tech the new Hillary,” Carusone said. “And that’s going to be a galvanizing force for them leading into 2022 and then again in 2024.”

  153. says

    Follow-up to blf’s comment 168.

    Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Sunday pushed back on the idea that unemployment relief is hurting the job market as Republican governors begin slashing jobless benefits in their states, arguing that the move would force more people to return to work.

    […] On Friday, the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers added a modest 266,000 jobs last month, which falls short of the one million that economists had forecast and the weakest monthly gain since January […]

    Asked about the Biden administration’s take on the slowdown in hiring, Raimondo said that there is no data suggesting that Americans are out of work due to unemployment insurance.

    Instead, Raimondo pointed to the fear of COVID-19 or the inability to find childcare as key reasons for why people aren’t able to go back to work.

    Raimondo was then specifically asked about governors of states such as South Carolina and Montana that are rolling back unemployment benefits due to their belief that it has a negative impact on the job market. Republican lawmakers have expressed their opposition to enhanced unemployment payments and unanimously voted against extending them earlier this year.

    After saying that it’s appropriate for governors in different regions to tailor their response to unemployment benefits depending on the circumstances within their regional labor market, the commerce secretary doubled down on denying that unemployment insurance is to blame for a job market that falls short of economists’ expectations.

    “But if you look nationally, wages aren’t going up. People are still telling us the number one reason they’re not going back to work is fear due to the virus. And more people were looking for work last month than the month before,” Raimondo said. “So we are — I am engaged with businesses constantly listening, monitoring. But at the moment, it doesn’t seem to be that that’s the major impediment.”

    Link

  154. says

    Follow-up to comment 175.

    Posted by readers of the article:

    Gee, don’t suppose companies could offer things like living wages that are better than unemployment benefits to encourage people to get back into the workforce.

    We never really did away with the slavery mentality in America, we just exchanged it for exploitation of the working class with nominal wages that are never quite enough to get by.
    ————————-
    Not only are Republican policies heartless, they’re also not based in reality. Lack of government support for childcare in the US is a major problem and puts us in the company of third world countries on this issue. If we solve this, we remove a major impediment for workers, especially women, to enter the workforce.

    Having said that, what does it say about our society when unemployment insurance ( basically the least amount of money necessary for sustenance) is highly competitive with prevailing wages?
    ————————-
    We also have the on/off valve with unemployment that other countries don’t. Make a dollar, you’re out of it and losing money. Other places wean people off over certain levels, so getting a low-wage job in the interim doesn’t just cut you off.
    —————————
    Why not come back and work at tipped-employee wages when the house is half empty or worse?

  155. says

    Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Paris and other French cities on Sunday to call for stronger action against man-made climate change.

    Reports of the demonstrations on social media indicated that protesters marched in Paris, Nancy, Toulouse, Rennes, Lyon, Grenoble and other towns in support of stronger measures to combat climate change than are currently included in a bill addressing the issue currently under consideration by France’s legislature. […]

    Link

  156. blf says

    Lynna@172 observes, about changes to the French language, “I would not call it feminizing … it is more like equalizing.”

    Good point! I missed that. Possibly because, at least in part, as the video examples, the default rule in French is “masculine” (le masculin l’emporte sur le féminin) — citing the example of if it’s one individual, the phrase for a male is “un title” and for a female “une titlee” — but for more than one person, if any are male, it’s “les titles” (the actual spelling of the title can differ as well, just to make things even more confusing); with the modified spelling, it’d be “les title·es” (broadly speaking), acknowledging there are females in the group.

  157. blf says

    Lynna@177, There was a march here in the village. I didn’t go, partly due to my own confusion about the time / date, and partly due to concerns about the pandemic. From the sounds (I could hear it), it was either well-attended, very noisy, or both.

  158. says

    Washington Post link

    The April unemployment numbers showed that women got hit very hard. Almost all of the job gains went to men. The female workforce remains where it was in the late 1980s.

    The increased burdens of family in the covid-19 pandemic play a major role in this. Many schools, after-school programs and child-care centers remain closed, or not open for full-time, in-person learning. Someone needs to take care of the kids at home. And, yes, mothers are taking on the bulk of the responsibilities, as they almost always do.

    As if on cue, a lousy old myth about women, motherhood and work is making a return, too: that many of these women are better off for cutting their (paid) work hours and downscaling their professional aspirations in favor of tending to family responsibilities.

    The Los Angeles Times found a woman who couldn’t simultaneously telework and care for a newborn — no kidding! — so she’s offering online parenting classes, which, she admits, might not earn her a full replacement income. “It’s been a blessing in disguise,” she said. The Atlantic, in turn, reported on a group of high-achieving professional women who, facing the demands of pandemic parenting, cut back from full-time jobs to part-time hours or freelance work. They are taking, the writer said, “a brief, low-speed detour” and “are happier as a result.”

    Give. Me. A. Break.

    We’ve been here before. In 2003, a New York Times headline coined the term “opt out” to describe a Lisa Belkin article about highly educated, high-achieving women who, overwhelmed by the demands of the workplace and parenting, decided to downscale or totally jettison their careers for a time, seemingly convinced that they could get back on a professional track when they needed or wanted to.

    As later reporting and research revealed, the reality was more complicated and less cheerful. Many of the women, it turned out, had left work largely because they could not manage the demands of work and home. Their spouses, usually high earners, had little bandwidth or willingness to pitch in. The employers often proved less than accommodating. And when the women tried to opt back in, they often returned to lower-paid positions. If they divorced, they were likely to experience major financial trouble. The “short detour” became permanent and life-altering.

    These narratives, then and now, have the same theme. It is, after all, an American character trait to take personal responsibility for solving a systemic failure […] as Pamela Stone, a professor at Hunter College and author of “Opting Out?” and co-author of “Opting Back In,” told me when I interviewed her a few years back, “Their perception was all about choice, but the stories they told were all about constraints.”

    […] The Biden administration, to its credit, looked at the pandemic ground situation and concluded that tending to humans was as much a part of our societal infrastructure as building and maintaining roads and bridges, and it is now proposing to expand federal funds for universal pre-K.

    […] Republicans and conservatives are using the sentiment of the old opt-out movement to attack President Biden and the help he wants to offer American parents. [snipped many examples of Republicans saying retrograde and stupid things.] “Young children are clearly happier and healthier when they spend the day at home with a parent.”

    And, make no mistake, when they say “parent,” Americans hear “mother.”

    American mothers — and fathers — need help. But the moment we begin to wrap women’s life-altering decisions to leave or cut back on paid work and professional aspirations in the soft glow of motherhood, we are playing into flawed and disproven conservative tropes about society. Let’s not go there again.

  159. KG says

    Here in the YooKay, we had a “Super Thursday” of elections to local councils, mayoralties, and the Welsh and Scottish Parliaments on 6th. I’ll try to write a longer account later (I have an important work deadline approaching), but here are a few key points:
    1) The Tories did well, and Labour correspondingly badly, in the council elections. The Tories also did well in the Welsh Parliament, but so did Labour (gaining a seat to hold exactly half of the 60), who also did pretty well in the mayoralty elections (these city/city region mayors are fairly new in the UK – or rather, England, I think there are none elsewhere). But it’s the council elections that have got most of the attention as far as the Labour/Tory battle is concerned. Briefly, the Tories have hoovered up the slices of the bigot “socially conservative” vote that were previously going to UKIP, the Brexit Party and even further right outfits, by stealing their clothes, and Keir Starmer, Labour’s leader, has alienated the left, while failing to recapture the bigot “socially conservative” vote, much of which was traditional Labour before Brexit. Starmer has reacted to the poor results (having said in advance he would take responsibility) by demoting the deputy leader, Angela Rayner, from her posts as chair of the party and campaign coordinator (he can’t sack her as leader), and holding a badly mismanaged reshuffle, deflecting attention from the better Labour results from Wales and the mayoral elections, which came in after the poor council showing was making headlines.
    2) The traditional third party, the Liberal Democrats (“LibDems”) roughly held their own in council seats, but lost their last seat in the Welsh Parliament, and a key seat in the Scottish Parliament (see below).
    3) The Green Party of England and Wales did very well, more than doubling its holding of council seats, coming second to Labour in the mayoral election in Bristol and third in London (Sadiq Khan was re-elected for Labour, but less convincingly than expected), where they also got 3 London Assembly seats to the LibDem’s 2. Much of their increased support seems to have come from leftist Labour voters disillusioned with Starmer, but they also gained seats from the Tories.
    4) Much of the attention, even in the UK-wide media, has been on the results in Scotland. Changes in seats numbers have been small, the numbers now (with those in 2016 in parentheses) being SNP 64(63), Tories 31(31), Labour 22(24), Scottish Greens 8(6), LibDems 4(5). The SNP fell just one shot of their desired overall majority (they needed 65 of the 129 seats), my own party (Scottish Greens) made the biggest gains (due to the vagaries of the electoral system, which I’ll explain later, we could easily have ended up with only 7 seats, or as many as 10), the LibDem’s fall from 5 to 4 is very bad news for them, as there’s a threshold of 5 for a party or alliance of parties to have a say in what gets debated and have a right to regularly question the First Minister. The SNP’s failure to get an overall majority (which pleased me as it of course enhances Green influence) is already being dishonestly exploited by anti-independence speakers, despite the fact that there is a 72:57 pro-independence majority, as the Scottish Greens are explicitly pro-independence, and included this on all our election material.

    More later…

  160. KG says

    Starmer of course can’t sack Rayner as deputy Labour leader – it’s an elected post.

    In Scotland, it’s worth mentioning that former SNP leader Alex Salmond’s We-Hate-Nicola-Sturgeon Party (“Alba” is its official name) failed humiliatingly, getting nowhere near a seat anywhere. As did George Galloway’s George-Galloway-For-Life-President Party (“All For Unity” – anti-independence being its main policy). US readers may possibly remember Galloway debating with Hitchens on the invasion of Iraq, an issue where Galloway was on the correct side, but he’s a thoroughly obnoxious egotist. And the independent campaign of Andy Wightman, who was one of our MSPs but turned out to be something of a transphobe and left the party over that issue, failing to resign his seat as all our candidates promise in advance to do if they defect.

  161. says

    Thanks to everyone for the weekend news and analysis!

    Some podcast episodes:

    Decoding the Gurus – “Michael O”Fallon: The Jacobins are Back….. To Reset….. Everything…. Dun Dun Daah!”:

    Just as the Terror was used by Robespierre and the Jacobins during the French Revolution two centuries ago, fear and draconian control is being used today to usher in… The Great Reset.

    Or so Michael O’Fallon would have you believe. O’Fallon is the founder of Sovereign Nations, a Christian nationalist organisation that aims to “prepare warriors for the battleground of ideas”. He’s recently been collaborating with James Lindsay, renowned culture warrior and online troll, to teach us all how critical theory and social justice are hell bent on destroying Our (or at least Western) Civilisation.

    Chris and Matt are joined by Aaron Rabinowtiz, host of Embrace the Void (@ETVPod) and Philosophers in Space podcasts, PhD student and lecturer at Rutgers University. Aaron has Done the Work, he has the Documents, he’s been privy to the secret conversations, and he’s here to help the boys decode just WTF is going on here.

    So, what’s the deal with O’Fallon? Is he a sorely-needed, breathy and bombastic prophet bearing a critical message of our impending doom? Why does he take such long pauses? Where did he get such a laughably inaccurate understanding of the French Revolution? We can’t promise all the answers in this episode, but we’re going to give it a shot. The Future of our Civilisation…. Depends Upon It…..

    QAA – “Episode 141: Arizona Election ‘Audit’ Goes QAnon”:

    Ron Watkins can’t stop talking about the Maricopa County ‘audit’ of the 2020 election. We dig into the details surrounding it, including a Q-friendly CEO using a fraudulent process developed by a failed inventor who once hunted for the Ark of the Covenant….

    Conspirituality – “50. Sellouts & Zealots (w/ Sheena Sood)”:

    When the drones hum over the improvised cremation grounds of Delhi, what will the conspiritualist see in the livestream—if they even look? Will their Orientalist spell, fixated on fire ceremonies and mantras, finally be broken? In our interview this week, Matthew speaks with sociologist Sheena Sood about the hubris of Hindu nationalism as its yoga-boosting ministers show their pious ineptitude, telling their gasping citizens to stop being crybabies and consider drinking holy cow urine against COVID.

    What about when other supposed zealots show their sell-out colors? Austin’s biohacking guru, Aubrey Marcus just sold his hipster supplement company to Unilever, of all companies. Derek breaks down the insanity of the COVID-contrarian set taking the buyout from the big-Ag, big-Pharm mack daddy. Julian looks at how, in the very same week, Marcus’s biz partner Joe Rogan, excuses his vax-hesitant comments by admitting he’s a moron. But isn’t the joke on us?

    Priests and punks, preaching spirit and stockpiling cash. When will this be over?

  162. says

    A few more podcasts:

    You’re Wrong About – “The Chicks vs. The Iraq War”:

    Mike tells Sarah about an impending conflict, a dissident singer and America’s first internet-enabled cancellation. Digressions include “Freedom Fries” and 1990s record company shenanigans….

    Stay Tuned with Preet – “The Chauvin Prosecutors (with Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher)”:

    On this week’s episode of Stay Tuned, “The Chauvin Prosecutors,” Preet interviews Jerry Blackwell and Steve Schleicher, the two lead prosecutors in the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who was convicted of murdering George Floyd.

    The New Abnormal – “Rudy Giuliani Is in ‘Deep Shit’”:

    Rudy Giuliani insists the FBI raid on his apartment was a total miscarriage of justice. His Trumpy allies swear the feds had no reason at all to execute a search warrant on his home.George Conway, a former top Republican lawyer, has a slightly different take. “I think he’s in deep shit,” Conway tells Molly Jong-Fast on the latest episode of The New Abnormal. Then, science historian Steven Johnson—the man behind the new Extra Life Project—joins the pod to discuss the many lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic.

  163. says

    Guardian – “Body of arrested Myanmar poet Khet Thi returned to family with organs missing”:

    Myanmar poet Khet Thi, whose works declare resistance to the ruling junta, has died in detention and his body was returned with the organs removed, his family said.

    A spokesperson for the junta did not answer calls to request comment on the death of Khet Thi, who had penned the line “They shoot in the head, but they don’t know the revolution is in the heart.” His Facebook page said he was 45.

    Khet Thi’s wife said both of them were taken for interrogation on Saturday by armed soldiers and police in the central town of Shwebo, in the Sagaing region – a centre of resistance to the coup in which elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted.

    “I was interrogated. So was he. They said he was at the interrogation centre. But he didn’t come back, only his body,” his wife, Chaw Su, told BBC Burmese language news .

    “He died at the hospital after being tortured in the interrogation centre,” the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group said in a bulletin that put the toll of civilians killed since the coup at 780.

    The group, which monitors details of killings, did not identify the source of its information.

    Khet Thi was at least the third poet to die during protests since the 1 February coup. Poet K Za Win, 39, was shot dead during a protest in Monywa in early March.

    Cultural figures and celebrities have been prominent supporters of opposition to the coup with protests daily in different parts of the south-east Asian country in spite of the killings and thousands of arrests.

    Khet Thi had been an engineer before quitting his job in 2012 to focus on his poetry and to support himself by making and selling ice-cream and cakes.

    “I don’t want to be a hero, I don’t want to be a martyr, I don’t want to be a weakling, I don’t want to be a fool,” he wrote two weeks after the coup. “I don’t want to support injustice. If I have only a minute to live, I want my conscience to be clean for that minute.”

    More recently, he wrote that he was a guitar player, a cake baker and a poet – not someone who could fire a gun. But he implied his attitude was changing.

    “My people are being shot and I can only throw back poems,” he wrote. “But when you are sure your voice is not enough, then you need to choose a gun carefully. I will shoot.”

  164. says

    Guardian – “Israeli police storm al-Aqsa mosque ahead of Jerusalem Day march”:

    Israeli police have stormed the sacred Jerusalem compound that holds the Dome of the Rock amid mounting international concern over the worsening violence in the city.

    Following the most serious clashes in the city since 2017, the Palestine Red Crescent reported 305 people had been injured after officers in riot gear clashed with Palestinian demonstrators in East Jerusalem….

    Much more atl.

  165. says

    Guardian – “French soldiers accuse government of trying to ‘silence’ warnings of civil war”:

    Serving members of the French military have fired a second salvo at Emmanuel Macron’s government in an open letter accusing it of “cowardice, deceit, perversion”, just weeks after a first letter said the country was heading for “civil war”.

    Like the first letter, it appears in the rightwing magazine Valeurs Actuelles. It was reportedly signed anonymously “by active military personnel” and is appended with a petition on the magazine’s website for others to sign.

    It was published in support of the first letter, published on 21 April, the 60th anniversary of a failed coup d’état against General Charles de Gaulle over his support for Algerian independence.

    Signed by a number of retired generals as well as at least 18 serving soldiers including four officers, it warned of the “disintegration” of France evoking what it called the “perils” of Islamic extremist and “the hordes from the banlieue”.

    It also accused anti-racism groups of creating “hatred between communities” and cautioned that “lax” government policies could spark chaos requiring military action to “protect our civilisational values”.

    Afterwards, furious ministers accused the signatories, who were supported by the far-right Rassemblement National party leader, Marine Le Pen, of breaking military rules and threatened legal action against them. The armed forces minister, Florence Parly, said: “The armies are not there to campaign but to defend France”, while the interior minister, Gérard Darmanin, accused Le Pen of having her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s “taste” for the sound of marching boots.

    The second letter, published late on Sunday evening, batted off threats of punishment and launched an all-out attack on the government,…

    It brought a swift and damning response from the French government and politicians across the spectrum. Darmanin said it was a crude manoeuvre in the run-up to regional elections next month and denounced the lack of courage of its unnamed authors.

    “These are anonymous people. Is that courage? To be anonymous?” Darmanin said on BFMTV. “What a strange and courageous society that gives such a voice to anonymous people. It’s like being on social networks. I think I know that when you’re in the military, you don’t do this kind of thing on the sly.”…

    (The article quotes too extensively from the letter and doesn’t sufficiently contextualize it, in my view.)

  166. says

    Here’s a link to the May 10 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From there:

    While most health authorities are trying to allay people’s fears over needles right now, in Romania they’re basically daring people to get jabbed. The Associated Press has the story:

    At Dracula’s castle in picturesque Transylvania, Romanian doctors are offering a jab in the arm rather than a stake through the heart.

    A Covid-19 vaccination centre has been set up on the periphery of Romania’s Bran castle, which is purported to be the inspiration behind Dracula’s home in Bram Stoker’s 19th-century gothic novel “Dracula.”

    Every weekend through May “vaccination marathons” will be held just outside the storied 14th-century hilltop castle, where no appointment is needed, in an attempt to encourage people to protect themselves against Covid-19.

    “We wanted to show people a different way to get the (vaccine) needle,” Alexandru Priscu, the marketing manager at Bran Castle, told The Associated Press.

    Those brave enough to get a Pfizer vaccine shot receive a “vaccination diploma,” which is aptly illustrated with a fanged medical worker brandishing a syringe.

    Photos atl.

  167. says

    From today’s DN! headlines:

    Colorado Springs Shooting Claims 7 Lives During Weekend Marked by Rash of Mass Shootings

    Back in the U.S., a gunman shot and killed six people at a birthday party in Colorado Springs on Sunday. The gunman, who was reportedly in a relationship with one of the female victims, also shot and killed himself. There were children present, but none of them were killed or injured.

    The Colorado mass shooting comes after a rash of gun violence on Saturday. In Baltimore, four people, including the gunman, were killed during a shooting and two-alarm fire. In New York City’s Times Square, two women and a 4-year-old girl were injured after a shooting. And in South Florida, three people were wounded by gunfire in a shopping mall Saturday. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been nearly 200 mass shootings since the start of 2021.

    Ransomware Attack Targeting Colonial Pipeline Shuts Fuel Shipments Across Eastern U.S.

    The Colonial Pipeline company halted shipments of fuel across the eastern United States over the weekend after suffering what executives said was a ransomware attack on Friday. The cyberattack idled a pipeline network that transports nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supply from Texas to New Jersey. In response, the Biden administration enacted emergency powers, lifting limits on the transport of fuels by road to compensate for any shortages. U.S. officials blamed the criminal gang DarkSide, which mostly operates out of Russia. It was the Colonial Pipeline company’s worst crisis since last summer, when a pipeline rupture in North Carolina spilled at least 1.2 million gallons of gasoline — the largest spill in the state’s history.

    Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar Introduce Bill to Make School Meals Free

    Senator Bernie Sanders, Congressmember Ilhan Omar and other Democratic lawmakers have introduced a bill to make all school meals free for every student. Congressmember Omar noted 75% of school districts have school meal debt, and the new bill would “eliminate school meal debt, and strengthen local economies by incentivizing local food procurement.” Some 13 million children in the U.S. live in “food insecure” homes.

  168. says

    AP – “Reversing Trump, US restores transgender health protections”:

    The U.S. will protect gay and transgender people against sex discrimination in health care, the Biden administration announced Monday, reversing a Trump-era policy that sought to narrow the scope of legal rights in sensitive situations involving medical care.

    The action by the Department of Health and Human Services affirms that federal laws forbidding sex discrimination in health care also protect gay and transgender people. The Trump administration had defined “sex” to mean gender assigned at birth, thereby excluding transgender people from the law’s umbrella of protection.

    “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “Everyone — including LGBTQ people — should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”

    It marked the latest step by President Joe Biden to advance the rights of gay and transgender people across society, from military service, to housing, to employment opportunities.

    Monday’s action means that the HHS Office for Civil Rights will again investigate complaints of sex discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Hospitals, clinics and other medical providers can face government sanctions for violations of the law.

    The Biden administration action essentially restores the policy established during the Obama years. The Affordable Care Act included a prohibition on sex discrimination in health care but did not include the term “gender identity.” The Obama administration interpreted the law as shielding gay and transgender people as well. It relied on a broad understanding of sex shaped by a person’s inner sense of being male, female, neither or a combination.

    HHS is a traditional battleground for conflicts over social issues. During the Trump administration the department clearly bent to the will of conservatives. Other Trump policies applauded by the right restricted abortion referrals and broadened employers’ ability to opt out of providing birth control to women workers covered by their health plans. Under Biden, the policy pendulum has been swinging back in the opposite direction, as officials unwind actions taken in the Trump years.

    One of Biden’s first steps after taking office was a Jan. 20 executive order on combating discrimination on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. The new president directed every executive branch agency to examine what it could do to combat such discrimination.

    Biden quickly followed that up with another order reversing a Trump-era Pentagon policy that largely barred transgender individuals from serving in the military.

    And earlier this spring, the Department of Housing and Urban Development withdrew a Trump policy that would have allowed taxpayer-funded homeless shelters to deny access to transgender people.

    At HHS, Biden’s term has seen the Senate confirmation of Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary for health, a senior position that involves oversight of public health initiatives, HIV/AIDS, women’s health and minority health, as well as other areas including research protections. Levine, formerly Pennsylvania’s top health official, is the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate.

  169. says

    Republicans take steps to hide discouraging polls about Trump

    The National Republican Congressional Committee apparently doesn’t want its own members to know about Trump’s unpopularity in key districts.

    Throughout his presidency, Donald Trump made up polling data that purportedly showed his widespread popularity. Independent surveys pointed in very different directions, but the Republican dismissed those polls by insisting they were part of an elaborate conspiracy against him.

    During his semi-retirement, very little has changed. Trump recently appeared on Dan Bongino’s show, and when asked about the possibility of a third presidential campaign in 2024, the Republican said, “I am giving it the most serious consideration as you can imagine and based on every poll that I’m seeing and everything else. It’s something that is, you know, very positive, nobody’s seen anything more positive.”

    […] his boasts notwithstanding, the former president appears to have lost support in recent months. In NBC News polling, Trump’s national favorability rating stood at 43% shortly before Election Day. By January, as he prepared to exit the White House, that total had dipped to 40%, and as of two weeks ago, the Republican’s favorability rating had slipped further to just 32%.

    These are not results to be proud of. […] inconvenient details like these are apparently being kept from Republican members of Congress. The Washington Post reported over the weekend on a Republican retreat held last month that featured a polling briefing for GOP members.

    When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired. Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post.

    In these battleground districts, “strongly unfavorable” views of the former president were twice as high as “strongly favorable” views.

    […] Cheney reportedly told others that Republican campaign officials “had also left out bad Trump polling news at a March retreat for ranking committee chairs.”

    In other words, NRCC officials are aware of Trump’s unpopularity, but rather than make Republican members aware of the facts, the party believes Republicans would be better off not knowing.

    As a rule, willful ignorance is an unwise strategy for a political party.

    Willful ignorance is the trumpian way. It is also the way most cults operate.

  170. says

    Arizona Republican: Election audit ‘makes us look like idiots’

    Yes, it does.

    How ridiculous is the Arizona Republicans’ ongoing election “audit”? As The New York Times reported, even one of the GOP state senators who helped open the door to this fiasco is finding the whole mess humiliating.

    After a week marked by mounting accusations of partisan skulduggery, mismanagement and even potential illegality, at least one Republican supporter of the new count said it could not end soon enough. “It makes us look like idiots,” State Senator Paul Boyer, a Republican from suburban Phoenix who supported the audit, said on Friday. “Looking back, I didn’t think it would be this ridiculous. It’s embarrassing to be a state senator at this point.”

    He’s not wrong. […] an official vote tally showed Joe Biden narrowly defeating Donald Trump in Arizona. There were two audits and a hand recount, each of which showed the same thing.

    […] As the review process began in earnest two weeks ago, it managed to become even more bonkers, with a combination of hidden procedures, security problems, weird inventions with unclear purposes, and rules that appeared to have been made up on the fly. (Don’t even get me started on the bizarre search for “kinematic artifacts.”)

    Last week, one of the officials overseeing the process said on the record that auditors had started looking for — I kid you not — bamboo fibers in the ballots, as part of an unintentionally amusing conspiracy theory involving China.

    The legislator’s comments are notable in part because it shows the degree to which this ongoing debacle has reached levels its own proponents can’t defend, but I think Boyer’s quote is also important because of what it tells us about the possible effects of the process.

    It’s quite likely that at some point, possibly over the summer, this tragically flawed “audit” and its Cyber Ninja administrators will produce some kind of report telling Donald Trump and other far-right conspiracy theorists what they want to hear. […]

    But by that point, it will still be a spectacular failure because the “audit” will obviously be the result of a corrupted process. No neutral observer will ever be able to take this nonsense seriously.

    So why continue with the charade? Because Trump and his cohorts don’t much care what neutral observers are able to take seriously. What matters is creating a new reality for the Republican Party and its base — whether proponents of the Arizona circus end up looking “like idiots” or not.

  171. says

    Ron Johnson stoops lower with misguided anti-vaccine ‘questions’

    If there’s a competition among Senate Republicans to see who can be the most irresponsible about the pandemic, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson has taken the lead.

    On his Fox News program last week, Tucker Carlson suggested COVID vaccines may be linked to a “not even close to normal” number of deaths. The host relied on data from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and said the statistics painted “a stunning picture.”

    They did not. A Washington Post analysis characterized Carlson’s rhetoric as “sloppy” and “dangerous,” and the observations based on cherry-picked data that were quickly discredited.

    And yet, a day after the Fox News broadcast, a prominent Republican senator was pushing an eerily similar line. CNN reported:

    Under the guise of “just asking the questions,” Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin spread anti-vaccine misinformation on a right-wing radio show Thursday, questioning why efforts were being made to vaccinate the general US population, especially young people and those who had previously been infected with Covid-19. Johnson, who tested positive for coronavirus last fall, said he was “sticking up for people who choose not to get vaccinated.”

    In the radio interview, the Wisconsin Republican brought up the VAERS system, saying, “We are over 3,000 deaths within 30 days of getting the vaccine. About 40% of those occur on day zero, one or two.”

    A HuffPost report explained soon after, “As the VAERS website clearly states, the reports it contains have not been verified, and anyone with an internet connection can submit one. It’s not new; the CDC has been running it for three decades. But during the coronavirus pandemic, it has become a weapon for conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination activists who use the numbers found there to spread misinformation about vaccines.”

    […] the GOP lawmaker brought up misinformation popular in anti-vaccine circles, and told a public audience about a possible connection between deaths and vaccinations.

    It’s the kind of nonsense that undermines public health and puts people in danger for no reason.

    [snipped many details of Johnson’s past attempts to spread disinformation]

    In late 2020, Johnson sunk lower, holding multiple Senate hearings to promote pseudo-science and conspiracy theories. Dr. Ashish Jha, dean at Brown University School of Public Health, appeared as a witness at one of the Senate hearings and was amazed by the Wisconsin senator’s apparent suspicion that there’s a “coordinated effort by America’s doctors” to deny patients hydroxychloroquine because of a corrupt scheme involving physicians and the pharmaceutical industry.

    All of this, of course, is unrelated to Johnson’s ugly rhetoric about immigration and efforts to “remake the demographics of America,” his efforts to downplay the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and his ridiculous conspiracy theories related to the 2020 presidential election — including his indifference to an FBI warning that he was “a target of Russian disinformation” during the last election cycle. […]

  172. says

    As the New York Times reported:

    Democrats and other voting-rights advocates held a rally at Texas’ state capitol over weekend, protesting the Republicans’ new voter-suppression measure. The event was led in part by former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Julián Castro, a former San Antonio mayor and former cabinet secretary in the Obama administration.

  173. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Nepal reports record number of new cases

    Nepal has recorded its highest daily number of coronavirus cases, registering 9,127 new infections as it struggles to combat the staggering force of its second wave.

    The country also reported a further 139 deaths, pushing the toll up to 3,859, while cases stand at 403,794.

    The Covid positivity rate is at 47%, one of the highest in the world, and cases have surged by 1,200% in recent weeks.

    Nepal is facing severe oxygen shortages, with some mid-size cities having no oxygen at all in any of their hospitals. In the capital of Kathmandu, ICU beds are full and Covid wards are at capacity.

    England reports 0 Covid deaths for first time since July

    No Covid deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test have been reported in England on Monday – the first time since 30 July last year.

    No such deaths were also recorded in Scotland or Northern Ireland on Monday, however four deaths were recorded in Wales.

    While the figures are only one measure of Covid-related deaths, and are often affected by time lags in reporting – meaning that they tend to be higher in the second half of the week – the data suggests the combination of lockdown and Covid vaccinations has had the desired effect, driving down the death toll….

  174. says

    Researchers Say They’ve Uncovered a Massive Facebook Bot Farm from the 2020 Election

    The 14,000-account “political manipulation” network sent posts on Trump, Biden, and COVID.

    A group of security researchers say they’ve unmasked a massive bot farm that aimed to shape public opinion on Facebook during the heat of the 2020 presidential election.

    According to Paul Bischoff of Comparitech, a British cybersecurity company, the network includes 13,775 unique Facebook accounts that each posted roughly 15 times per month, for an output of more than 50,000 posts a week. The accounts appear to have been used for “political manipulation,” Bischoff says, with roughly half the posts being related to political topics and another 17 percent related to COVID-19. Each account has a profile photo and friends list—likely consisting of other bots, the researchers suggest—and they’ve joined “specific Facebook groups where their posts are more likely to be seen and discussed by legitimate users.”

    The most-used keyword in the posts was “Trump,” the researchers found, followed by “Biden.” The accounts date back at least as far as October 2020, and, in addition to posts discussing specific events in the 2020 US presidential elections, were also active around the California wildfires, protests in Belarus, and US border issues. The researchers were able to determine that the fake accounts were created and controlled using Selenium, software designed to automate web application testing, but that can also be used to mimic human behavior in ways that could be difficult for automated bot detection software to spot.

    According to a Comparitech spokesperson, Facebook did not respond to Bob Diachenko, an independent cybersecurity expert who helped lead the research, when he attempted to bring the teams’s findings to the platform’s attention. A Facebook representative said the company would look into a sample of the accounts identified by Comparitech, but declined further comment.

    Facebook has become much more active and aggressive at publicly identifying and taking down what it calls “coordinated inauthentic behavior” operating on the platform since the 2016 Russian election interference operation. Such inauthentic activity, which the company defines as when posters seek “to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing while relying on fake accounts,” can include government-backed or private efforts. Just last month, the company claims it had removed 1,565 suspect Facebook accounts, along with 141 Instagram accounts, 724 pages, and 63 groups.

    The Comparitech researchers were able to see the email addresses that purportedly registered the phony Facebook accounts. While many used “mail[.]ru” accounts seemingly originating in Russia, the researchers did not allege who was behind the bot farm, or who controlled the unsecured server.

    And there it is: yet one more reason to distrust Facebook.

  175. says

    Facebook’s January decision to ban Donald Trump left many people who dislike Trump and the social media giant feeling like they had to pick sides.

    There’s no need for that. That’s one takeaway from comments on Sunday by Michael McConnell, a Stanford University law professor who is co-chair of Facebook’s Oversight Board. Appearing on Fox News, McConnell faulted Facebook for its failure to set out clear rules governing content, while also batting aside claims that the company treated Trump unfairly. [video available at the link]

    “Trump is the one who issued those inflammatory posts at the very time when rioters were invading the Congress and shutting down the constitutionally prescribed process for counting electoral votes,” McConnell told Fox’s Chris Wallace. “He issued those posts. He is responsible for doing that. He bears responsibility for his own situation. He put himself in this bed and he can sleep in it.”

    McConnell, a former federal appeals court judge nominated by President George W. Bush, appeared on Fox to defend the board’s May 5 decision to extend Facebook’s ban on Trump while recommending that the company itself, not the board, review the question again within six months. The board said that Trump’s January 6 posts complimenting rioters “severely violated” Facebook’s rules against praise for people engaged in violence and that his lies about election fraud “created an environment where a serious risk of violence was possible.”

    McConnell said Facebook’s rules governing content are a mess. “We gave them a certain amount of time to get their house in order,” he said. “They needed some time because their rules are a shambles. They are not transparent. They are unclear. They are internally inconsistent.”

    But he rejected claims by Trump and many of his supporters that a private company barring Trump from posting violates his right to free speech. “He has no First Amendment rights” on the platform, McConnell said. “He’s customer. Facebook is not a government, and he is not a citizen of Facebook.”

    “No judge in the country would rule” in Trump’s favor, McConnell said.

    Link

  176. blf says

    If you prefer to get your vaccine by bite rather than needle, ‘Dracula’s castle’ offers tourists Covid shots

    Actually, it’s part of what seems to be a rather clever strategy by Romania to get people vaccinated:

    Romania’s government has turned to local vaccination drives and 24-hour “marathons” at major venues such as the National Library in Bucharest to get as many citizens as possible immunised.

    “These centres are for everyone who wants to get vaccinated but doesn’t feel like making an appointment online,” Beatrice Mahler, the director of Marius Nasta hospital, told AFP.

  177. says

    Sen. Schatz:

    I swear there’s a whole cottage industry around telling people to not freak out even after a @&# insurrection and the number 3 R is getting ousted this week and there are voter suppression laws passing across America. It is time to be alarmed. It is not always savvy to be chill.

  178. KG says

    I noted @181 that the vagaries of the Scottish Parliament electoral system meant the Sottish Geens, who secured 8 seats, could easily have had only 7, or as many as 10. It appears we may have been denied the extra 2 seats by a poor decision from the Electoral Commission, which allowed an unpleasant outfit called “Independent Green Voice” to use what appears to be an intentionally confusing logo on the ballot paper, with “Green” in large print, and the other words much smaller (of course the word “Green” is not party property, but it is the EC’s job to guard against confusing ballot papers). Despite having done almost no campaigning, and having no recent online presence (although registered in 2003, its website does not appear to have been updated since 2007), IGV got more votes than other fringe parties with similar lack of presence. Of course it can’t be proved that voters were fooled, but if only a small proportion (just over 100 out of of around 2,000) of those voting for IGV in Scotland South Region intended to vote for Scottish Greens, we wuz robbed! In Glasgow Region, just under 1,000 out of a similar number voting for us instead of IGV would have netted us a second seat there. The story was almost repeated in Central Scotland Region, where again IGV stood, and we scraped home by just over 100 votes.

    Some information about IGV, which appears to be a fascist front, is available here.

    I’ve described the Scottish parliamentary electoral system before, but as it’s relevant to this story, and also other interesting features of the results, I’ll do so again. There are 129 seats at Holyrood, of which 73 are constituency seats, decided by “First Past the Post” voting – whichever candidate gets most votes, even if well short of a majority, is elected. Interestingly, many anti-independence (“unionist”) voters appear to have been willing to vote for whichever unionist candidate (Tory, Labour or LibDem) was most likely to beat the SNP. But voters have a second vote: the other 56 seats are “regional list” seats – 7 for each of 8 regions. The ballot paper for these seats lists parties rather than individuals (except for independents, treated as one-person parties), and they are intended to give parties with “wide but shallow” support (like the Scottish Greens) a chance to be represented. The 7 seats are decided successively. On the first round, any party which won any constituency seats in that region has its list vote divided by the number of constituency seats it won, plus 1. Parties which did not win any constituency seats get their whole vote (so in fact, it’s “divided by 1” – i.e., again, the number of constituencies won in the region, plus 1). On subsequent rounds, division is by the total number of seats won so far in the region (constituency plus list seats), plus 1. Because it won 62 of the 73 constiuencies, the SNP ended up getting only 2 list seats – but the overall result was pretty fair, as they won just under half the total constituency vote, and 40% of the list vote. (They always press for their supporters to give them both votes, even though most of the list votes for them will not gain any extra seats – Salmond tried unsuccessfully to persuade SNP voters to support his party on the list using that “wasted vote” argument.) It’s said the system was devised to make it hard for one party to win a majority (supposedly aimed at the SNP, but they were not by any means the largest party when the system was set up), and in fact any roughly proportional system would do the same. But the system certainly has some odd features. The LibDems won 4 constituency seats (their dwindling support is highly concentrated in a few areas), while we Scottish Greens won 8 list seats, and no constituencies. In my region, Lothian, we ended up getting two list seats, the same as 2016. But if fewer Tory or LibDem voters had been prepared to switch to Labour to keep the SNP out of Edinburgh Southern, or fewer Tory and Labour to vote LibDem to keep the SNP out of Edinburgh Western, we’d have got only one list seat even with every party getting exactly the same number of list votes, because Labour (or the LibDems) would have had their list vote divided by 1 less at each stage. This would also have given the SNP their desired overall majority, so in that sense, the tactical voters at the constituency level were highly successful, but at the same time, gave us far more influence! (It was very odd to find myself, on Saturday, hoping for the Tories to hold Aberdeenshire West, the last constituency seat the SNP could hope to gain – if they had done so, again they would have ended up with an overall majority.)

  179. KG says

    Sottish Geens -> Scottish Greens @204! If I weren’t a member, I’d suspect myself of doing that deliberately!

  180. says

    House Republican leadership makes its choice: The Big Lie trumps the Constitution

    House Republicans are continuing down the path of self-immolation this week, having a very public fight for their future. Are they going to stick by the former guy and treason or the Constitution and the nation? At this point, it’s not looking good for the latter. […]

    more opposition comes in the odious and opportunistic form of Rep. Elise Stefanik, who has decided her future in the party lies in treason. She’s the worm who got elected and reelected in New York by touting her “independence,” and who even called for the resignation of one of Trump’s worst lackeys, then-EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Most recently, though, she’s been hyping the Big Lie, going to the Trumpiest of all outlets—Steve Bannon’s podcast—to declare she’s down with the QAnon MAGA infestation of the party. […]

    Never mind that whole inciting a mob to attack the Capitol and threaten the lives of her and her colleagues to overthrow an election. You know, other than that. And the Russia thing. And the Ukraine thing. And the grift. And the letting more than half a million Americans die of COVID-19.

    Stefanik’s full embrace of MAGAdom isn’t being returned, however. While Trump is calling her “a new Republican star,” his mob is breaking with him. Some of the choice comments coming from the ultra-right about her include “a slightly less annoying America Last Republican”; “neocon establishment twit”; “wolf in sheep’s clothing”; “the identity of a swamp creature [with] the most liberal voting record of anybody who represents a strong Republican district.” Lou Dobbs called her a “RINO.” This is all after Trump’s endorsement of her to oust Cheney.

    That has everything to do with Stefanik’s initial opposition to Trump. She backed John Kasich in the 2016 primaries and even refused to use Trump’s name throughout that election, calling him “my party’s nominee.” Trump doesn’t give a damn about that now that she’s decided to kiss his ring […] While Stefanik voted with Trump less than 70% of the time in 2019 and 2020—and got reelected in New York for it—Cheney voted with Trump 93% of the time.

    […] Trump has never cared about the actual governing part. Stefanik is willing to go out publicly and mouth the Big Lie and echo the orange one’s insistence that he’s still the real president. That’s all that matters to him. […]

    House leadership has apparently decided, and it’s not going to be truth and the Constitution. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is firmly aboard the Trump train. He’s publicly backing Stefanik’s insurrection against Cheney […]

    It would all be hilarious to watch this massive unraveling of the GOP if it weren’t so damned dangerous to the country.

  181. says

    Amid the alarming, additional reports of mass shootings over the weekend, what does the Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, do? He signs a bill banning gun regulations by local governments.

    […] The bill expands a 2011 law that allows citizens or gun groups to sue local governments for enacting gun restrictions and demand up to $100,000 in damages, according to the Florida Sun-Sentinel.

    The bill, which takes effect July 1, expands the 2011 law in two ways, according to the newspaper: It will allow legal action for “unwritten” local policies that go against the regulation preemption, and it allows for local governments to still be forced to pay damages and attorney fees even if they alter their gun-related policies after the lawsuits are filed.

    he Florida Senate passed the legislation by a 24-16 vote on April 26. Two days later, the bill cleared the state House in a 78-39 vote.

    A Florida House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Cord Byrd (R), said during a floor debate in April that the legislation is intended to protect Second Amendment rights and “send a message” to local government, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

    Democrats, however, argued that cities and counties should not be reprimanded for spearheading efforts to limit gun violence, the newspaper noted.

    DeSantis’s signing of the bill comes around a month after a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeals upheld the 2011 law, which was challenged by dozens of local governments and officials in February 2018 following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which left 17 people dead.

    Lawyers for the local governments, however, filed a motion on April 23 requesting that the 1st District Court of Appeals send key issues in the case to the Supreme Court, the Sun-Sentinel reported.

    According to the newspaper, the Florida-based appeals court had not acted on the request as of Monday morning.

    Link

  182. says

    President Biden on Tuesday will meet virtually with a group of bipartisan governors to discuss COVID-19 vaccination strategies as the nation moves into a new phase in its campaign to get shots in arms.

    Biden will speak with Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D), Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) to hear about “innovative ways governors are working to get people in their states vaccinated,” the White House said.

    “The bipartisan group will share with the president some best practices on promoting access to vaccination, building confidence in vaccines and ensuring that everyone is reached in the vaccine response,” press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

    […] Biden will also look ahead to how states can help the administration reach its stated goal of having 70 percent of adult Americans receive at least one coronavirus vaccine dose and having 160 million fully vaccinated by the Fourth of July. […]

    Link

  183. says

    Wonkette: “Former White House Trade Idiot Is Even Bigger Idiot About Dr. Fauci, COVID-19”

    Former White House trade idiot Peter Navarro is not especially fond of Dr. Anthony Fauci. He’s written angry op-eds claiming Dr. Fauci is a big dummy who doesn’t know anything. But with all this unemployment-related free time on his hands, Navarro has now moved on to accusing Dr. Fauci of more serious offenses, such as literally fathering the coronavirus.

    Navarro was a guest on moldy, flesh bag Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast this weekend. Here’s some of the deranged gibberish he spouted. [video is available at the link]

    NAVARRO: For whatever reason, Fauci wanted to weaponize that virus. He is the father of it. He has killed millions of Americans if that thing came from the lab and now I’m 99.999 percent sure it did.

    Whoa if true! This represents a significant escalation in hostilities and rhetoric since March 30, when he first smeared Dr. Fauci as the “father of the virus” after Fox News host Rachel Campos-Duffy triggered Navarro with a clip of Dr. Fauci taking credit for pushing for the vaccine, calling it the “best decision” he made.

    CAMPOS-DUFFY: A quick reaction to that? I know that’s gotta be steaming you, Peter.

    NAVARRO: Fauci is a sociopath and a liar. He had nothing to do with the vaccine. The father of the vaccine is Donald J. Trump.

    Despite Navarro’s raging that his hero sired the vaccine […], there’s no evidence that President Pandemic did more than demand a vaccine NOW so people would stop talking about COVID-19 and he could win re-election. […]

    In the best Fox tradition, Campos-Duffy appears to have taken Fauci’s remarks entirely out of context for maximum effect. In fact, the doctor told CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta that seeing New York’s hospitals overrun was the moment when it “became very clear that the decision we made on January the 10th — to go all out and develop a vaccine — may have been the best decision that I’ve ever made with regard to an intervention as director of the institute.”

    He’s not claiming sole proprietorship of the vaccine. He specifically said “we.” He’s also the director of the National Institutes of Health, so his decision to support moving quickly matters, especially since he would’ve actually taken responsibility if it hadn’t worked, unlike the one-term loser.

    But Navarro went topsy-turvy on Dr. Fauci and called him the “father of the virus.”

    NAVARRO: Fauci is the guy — this virus, according to [Robert] Redfield at the Centers for Disease Control, came from the Wuhan lab and basically we had Fauci not only funding that lab with American taxpayer dollars, he authorized this thing called gain of function research.

    He allowed the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Liberation Army to genetically engineer a virus using gain of function. I call it the Fauci virus now. If he wants to be the father of something, he is the father of the virus that’s killed over half a million Americans.

    PolitiFact debunked this nonsense in February, but Navarro’s still repeating these lies […]

    The predictable result of this incessant fulminating is that Dr. Fauci has received death threats […] Navarro’s unhinged rants go right up to the line of inciting violence against an 80-year-old public servant […]

    And it’s not just stupid. It’s potentially lethal.

    Link

  184. says

    There’s a House hearing on the January 6th putsch going on right now. It’s on C-SPAN. Capitol Police IG Michael Bolton is giving his opening statement.

  185. says

    Republicans seem to have decided that lying is their best option. Rather than risk the wrath of the disgraced former president, they lie about who won the election and who is responsible for the Jan. 6 insurrection. Rather than confront the donor class and anti-government activists who insists on plutocratic economics, they opposed the American Rescue Plan en masse — and then went out to promote its benefits.

    Deception soon morphs into self-delusion. [Yes, that’s what I’m seeing.]

    The Post reports on a polling briefing that took place at a recent GOP retreat:

    When staff from the National Republican Congressional Committee rose to explain the party’s latest polling in core battleground districts, they left out a key finding about Trump’s weakness, declining to divulge the information even when directly questioned about Trump’s support by a member of Congress, according to two people familiar with what transpired.

    Trump’s unfavorable ratings were 15 points higher than his favorable ones in the core districts, according to the full polling results, which were later obtained by The Washington Post. Nearly twice as many voters had a strongly unfavorable view of the former president as had a strongly favorable one.

    Republicans do not want to deal with the unpleasant truth: The MAGA cult leader is bad for the party, yet they cannot bring themselves to break with him. […] The true sign of a cultist is that he will contort reality so as not to question the basic tenets of the cult.

    […] The truth-tellers and the deniers of the Jan. 6 insurrection cannot coexist. […]

    Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) at least does not try to sell his party a bill of goods. Also appearing on “Meet the Press,” he was blunt: “This is going to be a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.” In other words, Republicans need to dispense with the fantasy that abject liars willing to rewrite history can coexist with principled lawmakers who insist on defending the Constitution.

    […] United on policy? Few Republicans are talking about policy at all. Instead, they are fighting fictitious culture wars and cheering efforts to suppress the vote.

    Republican politicians are deceiving themselves about the former president’s toxicity […] They try to keep up the pretense that all will be fine in the GOP, ignoring the party’s absence of viable policy ideas and its preference for performance politics and right-wing conspiracy theories. […] the GOP crackup will only intensify.

    Washington Post link

  186. blf says

    DeAnna Lorraine Complains that Offering Different Seating Sections to Vaccinated Spectators Is Just Like the Holocaust and Jim Crow (RWW edits in {curly braces}):

    QAnon conspiracy theorist DeAnna Lorraine […] railed against proposals to offer separate seating sections for vaccinated and non-vaccinated spectators at sporting events and other large gatherings, predictably likening it to Nazi Germany.

    Lorraine, who has been an ardent COVID-19 denier and tireless anti-vaxxer from the very start of the pandemic, complained that offering separate seating sections for those who have been vaccinated is no different than Jim Crow.

    They’re gonna start dividing up their sections of sporting events, churches, and other areas of public interest and it’s gonna say vaccinated people or non-vaccinated people, Lorraine griped. And we know that — because there’s so many mindless sheeple out there — that the vaccinated section is going to be a hell of a lot bigger than the non-vaccinated section, but that’s how it’s going to be. So, sporting events, if you go to a baseball game, a football game, etcetera, you can expect to be put in a different section, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not.

    I’m actually okay with it, host Stew Peters responded, because I don’t really want to be hanging around these vaccinated people. All this talk about transmission and shedding and all of this other stuff, I mean, this is a contagious vaccination, it’s a self-spreading vaccination.

    Exactly, Lorraine replied. Don’t shed on me. We need to start having ‘Don’t Shed On Me’ flags everywhere.

    I don’t want to be hanging out with the vaxxed anyways, she continued, […] This is also {like} back in the day where racism was paramount and they had separate water fountains, separate schools, separate eating areas for blacks and whites. How is this any different?

    I rather like the idea of Don’t Shed On Me flags, as it could provide a highly visible warning of to stay well clear, both for sanity and safety. Possibly should be sold — at a considerable mark-up, of course — with bottles of bleach for internal disinfecting?

  187. blf says

    Follow-up of sorts to @174 in The Onion, Conservatives Criticize Local Preschool For Silencing Right-Wing Animal Voices:

    Accusing educators of brainwashing children with a liberal agenda of barnyard sounds, conservative pundits criticized local preschool Butler Academy Monday for silencing right-wing animal voices. “Every day, our children get sent to schools just like this, and are brainwashed by antifa teachers who believe that cows, chickens, and pigs only speak one way,” said Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who held up a picture book, flipped through the pages, and demanded to know why there wasn’t a single conservative “moo,” “baa,” or “oink” to be found. […] At press time, conservative pundits had called a teacher from the preschool in order to shame her for only teaching left-wing shapes.

  188. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that public health capacities must be strengthened to prepare for the possibility of vaccine-evading Covid-19 variants.

    Even in countries with a sliding trend in cases and with the highest vaccination rates.

  189. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    FDA authorises Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in adolescents

    US regulators authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, widening the country’s inoculation program as vaccination rates have slowed significantly.

    The US Food and Drug Administration said it was amending the Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) to include the millions of children aged 12 to 15.

    The vaccine had previously been given emergency authorised to people as young as 16 in the United States.

  190. says

    So I’ve listened to several episodes of the BBC podcast series @ #211. They’re interesting. The most useful I think so far is #5, “One woman’s escape from the rabbit hole.” They also mention a site called Conspiracy Watch in the episode on France, which has a recent book excerpt, “Comment lutter contre la prolifération des théories du complot ?” (the site, despite its name, is in French). The excerpt discusses research-based ideas for countering belief in conspiracy theories, at the individual and societal levels. I laughed when reading it I came across “représentant·es,” just a few hours after reading blf’s #170. Endorse.

  191. says

    CNN:

    There were at least nine mass shootings in the country over the weekend that combined left at least 15 people dead and 30 more wounded, according to CNN reporting and an analysis of data from Gun Violence Archive (GVA), local media and police reports.

  192. says

    Josh Hawley Says He Doesn’t Know If He Saluted Any Rioters, So We Checked.

    The junior senator from Missouri has been saying he waved to peaceful demonstrators who had nothing to do with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

    On Jan. 6, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) walked outside the U.S. Capitol, turned to a crowd of protesters and infamously saluted them with a raised fist before going inside to try to throw out November’s election results.

    About an hour later, some of those protesters broke through police barricades and stormed up the steps of the Capitol, where the mob smashed on the door until they gained entry to the building and a melee with law enforcement awaited.

    Hawley insisted earlier this week that he was saluting peaceful protesters and has maintained that he did nothing to encourage the violence that day.

    “I don’t know which of those protesters, if any of them, those demonstrators, participated in the criminal riot,” Hawley said Tuesday during a live event with The Washington Post, calling it a “slur” to say they were all rioters.

    But it’s ridiculous for Hawley to suggest he waved to a peaceful crowd and that he couldn’t possibly know if any of those people were part of the insurrection after he went inside. Photos and videos from that day show that many people on the east side of the Capitol were eager participants in the day’s events. HuffPost, working with members of the Sedition Hunters community and the group Capitol Terrorists Exposers, endeavored to help Hawley resolve the question of whether he’d saluted rioters on Jan. 6. The conclusion? He did.

    Hawley waved to the crowd from across the Capitol plaza shortly before 1 p.m. At a distance of about 200 feet, it would have been tough for him to see all the people very clearly.

    […] Members of Congress had been warned to use the Capitol’s underground tunnels to reach the House chamber.

    Videos from the east side of the Capitol that day also show Keith Lee, who later infiltrated the Rotunda, talking about how the barricades wouldn’t be strong enough to hold people back and telling a crowd he would “risk life, limb and injury.” Another part of the video shows a man screaming “storm the Capitol” into a bullhorn. During a livestream interview (that was deleted but viewed by HuffPost), Ann Vandersteel, a podcaster, reported that “a lot of people are talking about storming the Capitol if [the Electoral College vote certification] isn’t done the right way.”

    […] protesters on the east side, where Hawley raised his fist, also fought police. Roughly an hour after Hawley’s appearance, at the same location, violent rioters pushed past the barricades and a massive crowd flooded toward the building’s center steps, as seen in the video below. Few stayed behind.

    Many stormed right up to the doors of the building, overwhelming the police who tried to stop them. Why wouldn’t they? They believed that the election was stolen and that Joe Biden was about to usurp the American presidency. […]

    So what did Hawley see? He said Tuesday that when he stood there an hour before the riot exploded, he saw “demonstrators who were out there on the far end of the plaza on the east side standing behind barricades waving American flags,” adding that they had every right to be there.

    The photographer who captured the senator’s raised fist also took a few pictures of the crowd arrayed along the barricades on the east side of the Capitol.

    […] Pro-Trump protesters had the right to demonstrate outside of the barriers that surrounded the Capitol complex ― but not to blow past those security barriers and enter restricted grounds, overwhelm law enforcement and break into the building. Under normal circumstances, it would’ve earned them a pair of flex cuffs courtesy of the U.S. Capitol Police.

    When the pro-Trump mob stormed past the police line on the western front of the Capitol, they knocked a female Capitol Police officer unconscious. One Trump fan charged in her assault at a barricade told undercover FBI agents it was “fucking fun.” Then the mob brawled with police and used chemical weapons against Capitol Police officers, one of whom died the next day.

    The violent rioters at the front of the mob used the size of the crowd to their advantage, telling cops there was nothing they could do to stop them. Eventually, the Capitol attackers, once again backed by a mob of thousands, fought their way to a Capitol entrance and engaged in a lengthy, violent battle. Several officers were dragged into the crowd and beaten by Trump supporters who thought they were fighting for America.

    When Trump fanatic Danny “D.J.” Rodriguez, wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, electroshocked D.C. Police Officer Mike Fanone, there were thousands of Trump supporters behind him. Some of them may not have realized how brutal things were up front, but even their unlawful presence on Capitol grounds made it impossible for police to gain control over the situation. […]

    The defendant later claimed to the FBI that he regretted not helping Fanone. Some of the other members of the mob did eventually come to Fanone’s aid. He survived. But by joining the mob that was storming the Capitol, the illegal protesters had contributed to a situation that left Fanone fighting for his life. […]

  193. says

    Mass shootings didn’t dominate the weekend’s news … but FYI, there were nine of them

    If a mass shooting is defined as an event where four or more people are shot, not counting the shooter, well, there were at least nine of those in the United States over the past weekend. At least 15 people died and 30 were wounded in those nine events, as Republicans continue to oppose even the most modest gun law reforms.

    U! S! A!

    Sorry, what else can we possibly say at that news?

    The only one of the weekend’s minimum of nine mass shootings to make widespread headlines was at a birthday party in Colorado. Six people were killed in that one, and the suspected shooter—believed to be the boyfriend of one of his victims—also killed himself. While it’s common for your smaller, home-based mass shootings to involve intimate partner relationships, so much so that many of those shootings don’t get a lot of media coverage, the birthday party angle garnered this one some attention.

    In other mass shootings, three were killed and one injured in Woodlawn, Maryland, in a bizarre incident that involved a man shooting and stabbing his neighbors, setting fire to his own home, and ultimately being shot and killed by police. Two people were killed and three injured in St. Louis County, Missouri, when a truck pulled up and bullets started flying. In Compton, California, two people were killed and two injured, while one person was killed and five were injured in a Los Angeles shooting. One person was killed and at least seven were wounded in an altercation at a Phoenix hotel. Four people were injured in each of three mass shootings, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Newark, New Jersey; and Citrus Heights, California. […]

  194. says

    Wonkette: “Another Accused Capitol Rioter MAYBE Bad At Crime, Caught After Bragging On Facebook”

    It’s a tale as old as … about five months ago, really. Boy meets Capitol building, Boy illegally enters Capitol building, Boy riots inside Capitol building, Boy brags about entering Capitol building on Facebook, Twitter or a dating app, Boy gets arrested. (Allegedly, innocent until proven guilty, etc.)

    John Maron Nassif, 55, of Chuluota, Florida, was arrested on Monday on charges of “entering a restricted building or grounds and violent entry or disorderly conduct,” after having bragged about his exploits on Facebook and subsequently being reported to the FBI by someone who knew him and saw the posts.

    Via DOJ:

    NASSIF’s public Facebook page revealed a conversation on January 8, 2021, in which NASSIF states, “You know I was there right?” In addition, on January 9, 2021, NASSIF has a conversation on Facebook in which he writes that he deleted his Twitter account and the application. NASSIF also writes, “Download this and turn off auto updates for your apps on your phones. Encrypted comms should we need them, https://signal.org/install.”

    Yep! He encouraged people to use encrypted communications apps, because he was so stealthy, but also publicly bragged that he was part of the riots.

    Yet another witness who was friends with Nassif on Facebook also reported him to the FBI, citing a January 20 post in which he uploaded multiple pictures of himself at the Capitol riots and talked about going into the building, which he was not legally allowed to do.

    Text:

    [F]ound myself inside the building. The Rotunda was nearly filled with people. No one was fighting or being violent. More pushing and I decided to leave. It wasn’t until I was walking back that I heard a rumor someone had been shot. It wasn’t till I got back to my hotel room I learned the specifics. Anyone telling you this was some type of coup etc is telling you lies.

    Then what was it they were trying to do? Because it seemed pretty obvious they were trying to prevent the election from being certified so that Donald Trump could continue being president indefinitely.

    I realize I have a somewhat advanced understanding of crime, as a result of the many episodes of “Dateline” I have seen, but even a child knows that if you do something you know you’re going to get in trouble for, you don’t go around bragging about it. Perhaps on the day of the riots they thought they wouldn’t get in trouble, because they felt they were just following orders from the president. Perhaps a case could be made that they actually were that stupid.

    But by January 20 it was pretty clear this was a thing people were going to prison for. Yet Nassif still thought it was a good idea to share his crime scrapbook to Facebook.

    The Orlando Sentinel also reports that Nassif, who “faces up to one year in prison, a year probation and a $100,000 fine,” refused to wear his mask during a court hearing today, and is otherwise a real piece of work.

    After the hearing, Nassif yelled “Go away” and held up a hand to block his face as a group of reporters tried to ask about the charges against him.

    A review of Nassif’s Facebook page also shows memes and news stories that say the riot was organized by left-wing groups such as Antifa.

    He also posted news stories about anti-mask and lockdown mandates and another claiming the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention inflated COVID-19 deaths by 1600 percent. Multiple posts he shared were flagged for spreading false or misleading information. […]

    Link

  195. blf says

    Via Stephen Colbert (Late Show), The GOP’s Purity Test: Loyalty To The Former President, Or Else (video), teh HuffPost (who in turn cites the Arizona Republic) is reporting Cyber Ninjaphrauds, the company doing that extremely dubious vote / voter audit in Arizona, is demanding the passwords for various internet servers and routers, Sheriff Goes Ballistic After Arizona Recounters Demand Access To County Passwords:

    […]
    The private company conducting the GOP 2020 election recount in Arizona is now demanding access to government internet routers and passwords, which the Maricopa County sheriff blasted as “mind-numbingly reckless and irresponsible” and a threat to law enforcement.

    Sheriff Paul Penzone […] said in a statement that providing router information to a shadowy private company led by a conspiracy-embracing CEO would compromise sensitive and highly classified law enforcement data and equipment.

    “The Senate Republican Caucus’ audit of the Maricopa County votes from last November’s election has no stopping point,” Penzone said. “Now, its most recent demands jeopardize the entire mission of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.”

    In addition, citizens’ private information, including voting histories, addresses, phone numbers and Social Security numbers, could fall into the hands of Cyber Ninjas, the company hired by the GOP-led Senate to conduct the recount.

    In response to Senate subpoenas last week, county attorney Allister Adel explained in a letter that turning over the requested routers or “virtual images” of routers not only poses a significant security risk to the sheriff’s office, it also “puts sensitive, confidential data belonging to Maricopa County’s citizens — including Social Security numbers and protected health information — at risk as well,” reported the Arizona Republic.

    Access to the routers “might compromise county and federal law enforcement efforts and put the lives of law enforcement personnel at risk,” Adel added.

    [… Hair furor] has been telling guests at his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida that a vote upset in Arizona claimed by the Cyber Ninjas could be his road back to the White House.

    Also, the now-suspended door-to-door voter intimidation by Cyber Ninjaphrauds, was clarified that the squad of heavies at knocking on doors will not carry a firearm or other weapons.

  196. says

    Guardian – “Eight dead in school shooting in Kazan, say Russian officials”:

    A gunman attacked a school in the Russian city of Kazan on Tuesday morning, killing seven students and a teacher, officials have said.

    Rustam Minnikhanov, the president of the Tatarstan republic where Kazan is the capital, said four male and three female eighth-grade students died in “a great tragedy for the whole country”. Minnikhanov’s press service later said a teacher was also killed. Eighth-grade children in Russia are 13 and 14 years old.

    Footage posted on social media showed a young man being pinned to the ground outside the school by a police officer.

    Minnikhanov said a 19-year-old “terrorist” had been arrested and that the firearm used in the shooting was registered in the suspect’s name. “Other accomplices haven’t been established, an investigation is under way,” he said after visiting the school, adding that security had been restored.

    According to Tatarstan health officials, 21 people were taken to hospital with wounds after the attack, including 18 children, six of whom were in intensive care. Russia’s state RIA Novosti news agency reported earlier that 11 people had been killed.

    While school shootings are relatively rare in Russia, there have been several violent attacks on schools in recent years, mostly carried out by students.

    One of the last major shootings took place in Russian-annexed Crimea in 2018, when a student at a college killed 20 people before killing himself.

  197. says

    Christopher Miller, BuzzFeed:

    Wow, big move in Ukraine. The country’s security service is searching the Kyiv-area home of Viktor Medvedchuk, MP and leader of the country’s pro-Russia party and close friend of Putin’s, who is godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.

    Reporter for @tweetsNV now says Ukraine’s prosecutor general signed a suspicion of treason against Viktor Medvedchuk and his closest associate and business partner, Taras Kozak….

    Treason! Love this from the Prosecutor General’s autotranslated statement: “You can’t create an army of information clowns and puppet them in your own anti-Ukrainian interests.”

  198. says

    NBC – “Trump’s blog isn’t lighting up the internet”:

    Four months after former President Donald Trump was banished from most mainstream social media platforms, he returned to the web last Tuesday with “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” essentially a blog for his musings.

    A week since the unveiling, social media data suggests things are not going well.

    The ex-president’s blog has drawn a considerably smaller audience than his once-powerful social media accounts, according to engagement data compiled with BuzzSumo, a social media analytics company. The data offers a hint that while Trump remains a political force, his online footprint is still dependent on returning to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube….

  199. blf says

    “Senator” Paul and Dr Fauci sparred again (and again, the so-called “Senator” talked over Dr Fauci), this time on the bonkers Wuhan lab nonsense, so the follow-up question from the next Senator (a lady, but I missed her name (she’s remote so no name plate)) was about the conspiracy theories spouted by Paul and other eejits… hee hee

  200. blf says

    SC@241, I didn’t listen to Collins’ long ramble, but yeah, it did indeed sound like Dr Walensky addressed whatever batshitery Collins was bellowing.

  201. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    People in the US will be able to get a free ride to vaccination centres in Uber and Lyft vehicles after the companies partnered with the government as part of a new effort to boost vaccination figures.

    Joe Biden will announce the scheme later today, alongside plans for some of the US’ biggest community colleges to host vaccination sites for students, staff and local communities during May and June.

    States will also be offered more funding in order to support local efforts to encourage vaccine uptake, including door-to-door canvassing and phone banking.

    Biden is aiming for 70% of US adults to have had one vaccine shot by 4 July.

  202. blf says

    SC@242, Yeah as soon as Cassidy started his blatantly-obviously fake frustrated act, I tuned the entire exchange(s?) out. He also claimed to have been a virus researcher, but Ye Pffft! of All Knowledge does not seem to confirm.

    To his credit, however, he did vote to convict hair furor (and what that link reports him doing as a doctor also seems very much to his credit).

  203. blf says

    Follow-up to @240, the Dr Fauci–”Senator” Rand Paul exchange, in the Grauniad’s current States pandemic and politics live blog:

    As expected, Republican Senator Rand Paul clashed with Dr Anthony Fauci during the Senate committee hearing on the coronavirus pandemic.

    Paul, who indicated yesterday that he would be confrontational with the president’s chief medical adviser, repeatedly pressed Fauci on whether he still supports the National Institutes of Health providing funding to the lab in Wuhan that has been blamed (without evidence) for creating the coronavirus.

    “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect that the NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain of function research in the Wuhan Institute,” Fauci said. […]

  204. blf says

    Senator Murphy is now blasting the thugs on the committee and their conspiracy theories, acknowledging there are a lot of things we / science don’t know about Sars-CoV-2 / Covid-19, and praising the witnesses for not lying — taking a few swipes at hair furor and his dalekocrazy in the process.

  205. blf says

    Follow-up to SC@244, McDonald’s and Uber to help encourage vaccine-hesitant Americans:

    […]
    Burger chain McDonald’s has announced it is partnering with the White House to promote vaccination information on its coffee cups.

    Separately, Joe Biden announced on Tuesday a new program with Lyft and Uber which will offer free rides to anyone going to a vaccination site to get vaccinated.

    Starting in July, US customers will see redesigned McCafé cups and delivery-box seal stickers featuring an upbeat message of “We Can Do This”, a slogan created by the US health department.

    McDonald’s also said it will unveil a billboard in New York’s Times Square this month displaying vaccine information.
    […]

  206. says

    Bits and pieces of news:

    * California Republicans hoping to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) may want to lower their expectations. A new poll [measures] support for recalling the governor at just 36%. Newsom’s approval rating, meanwhile, is 52% in the statewide survey.

    * As House Republicans prepare to purge Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership post, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) responded on Twitter, “Expelling Liz Cheney from leadership won’t gain the GOP one additional voter, but it will cost us quite a few.”

    * On a related note, Denton Knapp, a retired U.S. Army colonel, announced plans to run against Cheney in a Wyoming primary. If my count is right, he’s the fifth Republican to file the paperwork to take on Cheney in 2022, and the larger the field, the more likely it is that Cheney will prevail.

    * Though modern history suggests otherwise, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) predicted the other day that his party will gain seats in the 2022 midterms. Since Reconstruction, the president’s party has gained House seats in midterm cycles only three times: 1934, 1998, and 2002. […]

    Link

  207. blf says

    Some nutter is, again, pushing some Wuhan lab nonsense. Dr Fauci has just him “I am not going to be trapped into saying…”, which is possibly the angriest I’ve ever heard him (his voice even went up maybe a few millidecibels).

  208. says

    Biden’s ACA special enrollment period reaches 1 million Americans

    ust one week after his inauguration, President Joe Biden did what his predecessor would not: he issued an executive order to create a special enrollment period through the Affordable Care Act, citing a need created by the pandemic. Donald Trump was expected to do something similar, but the Republican refused, because he didn’t want people turning to “Obamacare” for help during a crisis.

    Following up on our earlier coverage, Biden’s decision to do the right thing is paying off in dramatic ways. NBC News reported this morning:

    One million people have signed up for health coverage under an Affordable Care Act special enrollment period announced earlier this year, officials said Tuesday.

    “That’s 1 million more Americans who now have the peace of mind that comes from having health insurance,” Biden said in a statement. “One million more Americans who don’t have to lie awake at night worrying about what happens if they or one of their family members gets sick.”

    The president’s victory lap is understandable, though as we’ve discussed, the heartening numbers, actually understate the scope of the good news. As the New York Times recently noted, “The new enrollment figures cover the 36 states that use Healthcare.gov to run their health insurance marketplaces. They do not include Americans enrolling in coverage in the 14 states and District of Columbia that manage their own markets, many of which also have extended enrollment periods this year.”

    According to Charles Gaba’s research, the national total, including the states with their own exchange marketplaces, is roughly 1.5 million. […]

  209. says

    blf @246 and 250, OMG, Fauci must be so tired of testifying before Congress Critters, especially when Republicans abuse the occasion to propagate rightwing conspiracy theories.

    SC @229, thanks! For my sake, Josh Marshall needs to be more obvious. Heh. He needs to say to himself, Lynna won’t get this “she’s tweeted stuff like this like 900 times today” as an exaggeration. I’d better say: “She’s tweeted stuff like this a gazillion times today.”

    In other news: Kevin McCarthy makes weak case against Liz Cheney to House GOP

    The House Republican leader had a week to figure out what he wanted to say about purging Liz Cheney. His letter suggests he couldn’t think of anything.

    […] Over the weekend, McCarthy returned to Fox News and was asked whether he supports Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) in her bid to replace Cheney. “Yes, I do,” he replied.

    All of which led to yesterday, when McCarthy put it in writing. NBC News reported late yesterday:

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy sent a letter to his Republican colleagues saying it’s “clear that we need to make a change” ahead of a Wednesday vote that could remove GOP Rep. Liz Cheney from her position as conference chair.

    [No, it’s not “clear” at all.]

    […] Cheney has been publicly critical of Donald Trump’s anti-election efforts, while also expressing support for democracy, putting her future in GOP politics in peril.

    But what was surprising about McCarthy’s letter is how woeful it was. […]

    “We are a big tent party,” McCarthy wrote. “We represent Americans of all backgrounds…. And unlike the left, we embrace free thought and debate.” [LOL a gazillion times]

    Evidently, the irony was lost on him. The point of yesterday’s letter was for McCarthy to tell his members to purge a conservative Republican from the House GOP leadership team for her audacious apostasy against Trump orthodoxy. For McCarthy to add in the same letter that this is “a big tent party” that embraces “free thought” was absurd, even for him.

    But even more important was the minority leader’s argument that Cheney has to go because of her apparent interest in trying to “relitigate the past.” It’s become the go-to talking point for the Wyoming congresswoman’s intra-party critics: Republicans are firing her because she’s too focused on the 2020 presidential election.

    It’s a bizarre claim. For one thing, Cheney has been explicit in explaining her focus on the future of democracy, not just what transpired six months ago.

    For another, if anyone’s desperate to “relitigate the past” it’s the failed former president whom McCarthy & Co. are so eager to please. In case the House minority leader missed it, I’d direct his attention to the outlandish “audit” of ballots in Arizona, and Team Trump’s interest in taking the same circus to a variety of other states, including Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire.

    By any fair measure, one of Cheney’s principal partisan sins has been responding to Trump as he tries to relitigate the past.

    Clearly, such details will have little bearing on the outcome of the House Republican Conference vote tomorrow, but the fact that McCarthy is struggling to come up with a coherent case against Cheney speaks to the merit of the exercise.

    Excellent points.

  210. says

    Another audit … but this one is different.

    Why MAGA-World’s Election Reversal Hopes For A NH Audit Are Not Rooted In Reality

    A New Hampshire town of just 16,000 residents has become the focal point of MAGA-world fantasies positing that a reversal of […] Trump’s 2020 defeat is just around the corner. Their hopes are pinned to an audit beginning on Tuesday that is looking at a discrepancy that arose in the recount of a state representative race in Windham.

    […] more than 500 people reportedly showed up at a meeting last week of the Windham Board of Selectmen — normally a sparsely attended affair — where the review was being discussed. Trump cheered on those agitating around the audit in a statement the day after the meeting that celebrated the “great Patriots of Windham, New Hampshire for their incredible fight to seek out the truth on the massive Election Fraud which took place in New Hampshire and the 2020 Presidential Election.”

    [The audit] will not examine the presidential results and that it will cover a number of ballots that’s well short of Joe Biden’s margin of victory in the state. […]

    “This isn’t just about the town of Windham,” Trump’s 2016 campaign manager Corey Lewandowski said Monday evening, according to a video posted to Facebook of him speaking to a crowd of New Hampshire Trump supporters who have rallied around the audit. “We’re seeing things take place across this entire country.”

    But the circumstances of the Windham audit are quite different than the baseless claims that drove Arizona’s Republican Senate to order the shambolic recount of Maricopa County’s results. The Windham audit is the result of a bipartisan push to review a legitimate discrepancy between the initial tabulation of the town’s state legislative results and the results that came out of a recount. The auditors chosen by state and local officials are known entities in the election administration world. […]

    Many 2020 election truthers are now pushing for the Windham auditors to be replaced with Jovan Pulitzer, an election conspiracy theorist who was reportedly involved in crafting some of the most questionable aspects of the Arizona recount. [Oh, FFS!]

    But with the Windham audit expected to be finished in the next two weeks, if not more quickly, they’re about to run out of options to hijack the New Hampshire review. Their latest gambit is a lawsuit filed Monday in New Hampshire state court seeking to stop the official audit so that the ballots could be turned over to the activists to do their own audit instead. The Democrats who sought the audit in the first place remain skeptical that the Trumpists will be able to derail the current plans.

    […] When November’s election results had St. Laurent just 24 votes shy of one of the four state representative seats up for grabs in the eight-person Windham race, she requested a recount. That recount produced discrepancies much larger than the normal variance that what would be expected for a hand recount of an election of this size. St. Laurent came out with 99 votes fewer, while the four Republican candidates who had beat her out each had 300 extra votes added to their tally. [That does not sound right.]

    She then sought a further review to determine what was behind the discrepancy. […] Ultimately, the legislature unanimously passed legislation that authorized an audit of the Windham results. The bill laid out comprehensive and thorough rules for the review, which will also include a recount of the town’s votes in U.S. Senate and governor’s races, as well as an examination of the election machines. [There are rules!]

    […] The biggest flashpoint in the Windham audit so far has been the Board of Selectmen’s choice of Mark Lindeman as one of the auditors, as the town was allowed to hire one of the three members of the audit team. Lindeman is co-director of Verified Voting, a well known election technology non-profit.

    Right-wing blogs like the Gateway Pundit seized on the fact that Lindeman had signed a letter, along with other election experts, opposing the Arizona’s Senate launch of the Maricopa audit. […]

    In addition to the lawsuit, there was also a petition drive over the weekend to collect the signatures of those who want Pulitzer on the audit team. Pulitzer — derided by Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) as a “failed treasure hunter” when he tried to meddle in the election there — has fashioned himself as a “pattern recognition expert,” according to the Daily Beast, who claims he’s created key technology to examine ballot folds. He previously invented a scan code that, the Beast noted, was deemed by a computer trade magazine to be among the “Worst Tech Products of All Time.” [All the best scam artists and grifters.]

    […] When Lewandowski — who is a Windham resident — spoke to Todd’s group on Monday, he was presented with a copy of the lawsuit filed Monday for him to show to Trump. Lewandowski told the crowd he was with Trump in Florida last week, the day before Trump put out his statement on the Windham audit, and that the former President “is actively watching whats happening.”

    […] Gov. Chris Sununu (R), who signed the bill sanctioning the audit, has pushed back on the commentary from Trump and his supporters about what the Windham audit will prove.

    “A discrepancy of 300 votes out of over 800,000 cast does not define massive voter fraud by any means,” Sununu said, according to the AP. “We passed a bill, we’re going to do an audit in Windham. If anything, I think the fact that we focus on 300 votes goes to the integrity of our system.”

  211. says

    Matt Gaetz is in even more trouble.

    Federal prosecutors have reportedly gone deeper into their investigation into Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

    Prosecutors are now seeking a potential cooperation agreement with an ex-girlfriend of Gaetz’s, CNN reports.

    The woman, CNN said, has been privy to a somewhat astonishing level of detail and information regarding the allegations against Gaetz. […]

    perhaps most explosively, CNN reported, the ex-girlfriend may know something about a second 17-year old girl with whom Gaetz allegedly slept. […]

    Link

  212. says

    Mississippi Republicans explicitly define ‘normal wage levels’ as below a living wage

    Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves followed the lead of his Republican counterparts in Montana and South Carolina by announcing the state will refuse expanded federal unemployment benefits, costing unemployed Mississippians $300 a week in an effort to force them into low-wage jobs—despite a lot of data showing that Republican claims about the effects of the federal unemployment aid boost are simply false.

    President Joe Biden pushed back on some of those claims in Monday remarks on the economy, saying “we don’t see much evidence” that people are staying home because of high unemployment benefits, and pointing out: “We still have 8 million fewer jobs than we did when the pandemic started.” At the same time, Biden emphasized that “anyone collecting unemployment who is offered a suitable job must take the job or lose their unemployment benefits.” […]

    Mississippi’s maximum unemployment benefit without the added $300 a week is $235, so the benefits that “exceed normal wage levels for productive work” end up at $13.38 an hour, just under the $13.43 an hour that the MIT Living Wage Calculator says is a living wage for one adult with no children in Mississippi. […]

  213. blf says

    The right’s new bogeyman: that Biden will take America’s hamburgers away:

    The real threat to our way of life — and Saturday night steak — is an oligopoly food system that teetered close to collapse last spring when its workers were overcome by Covid

    First President Obama was coming for your guns. Didn’t happen. Then President [sic] Trump said the socialists were going to take away our energy. The lights are on after 100 days, although it got dicey in Texas for awhile (and no, wind turbines didn’t cause the ice storm).

    But whoa, Nellie! We hear a Hamburglar will steal your right to beef before you can say “pass the ketchup”.

    Since I don’t even own a BB gun, I was not alarmed by Obama. Since I barely have enough energy to get out of bed I ignored Trump’s warning. But I can get worked up if you have your eyes on my ribeye.

    Turns out Fox News had to eat crow and retract a story claiming that Joe Biden will foreclose your divine right to slay a fatted calf. It was a Big Lie like all the rest […]

    This lie started in the Daily Mail, which of course would know exactly what the US secretary of agriculture is thinking. The Daily Mail insisted that meat consumption would need to be cut 90% to meet President Biden’s climate goals, citing part of a University of Michigan study.

    Meanwhile, here is what the secretary, Tom Vilsack, is really thinking about: cow burps and pig poop. He wants more cattle on grass as part of a system with reduced emissions resilient to extreme weather. […]

    After Biden’s first 100 socialist days, Tyson is running full tilt cranking out pork and turkey from Storm Lake with non-union labor. Hoghouses are going up everywhere, spreading up the Missouri into South Dakota. Chicken hind quarters were only 69¢ a pound at the grocery store last week.

    The opinion column’s author, Art Cullen, “is editor of the Storm Lake Times in north-west Iowa, where he won the Pulitzer prize for editorial writing.” So no, Storm Lake is not an obscure reference to the qAnonsense.

    I must admit I have no idea what industrial chicken parts cost here in France, but find that 0,69$/pound (c.1,50$/kg, or c.1,80€/kg) seems very low. My own chicken purchases are usually of whole bird — which, in France, really is the whole bird except for the feathers — with head & legs still attached, and guts still inside. The butcher weighs it and that is the cost is based on, and then cleans it for you as per your specification. Anyways, the last chicken I bought, not sure of the exact weight albeit it was rather hefty, was somewhere around 16€ but certainly not 8+ kg! (I finished up the last of the soup I made from the carcass this morning, as a sauce for my sausage-and-eggs.)

    Anyways, back to Mr Cullen’s opinion column:

    There are a fair number of NRA members deeply suspicious of Obama and Hillary Clinton who also want cleaner rivers and lakes, more grass buffers for habitat and limits on livestock confinements. They know the difference between BS and apple butter.

    And they sense the real threat to their way of life — including Saturday night sirloin — is an ossified oligopoly food system that teetered on the brink of collapse last spring when its workers were overcome by Covid. Meat prices shot up 50% when the Waterloo and Sioux Falls pork plants shut down for a week. […]

    The take away your meat scare belies the fear felt by Big Meat when its own, unsustainable system crashed up against its limits.

    Livestock can be sheltered humanely for efficient food production and better protection from disease. We can finish a lot more cattle on grass for the benefit of the planet. We can enhance food security with more diversity in production and open, competitive markets. Almost everyone in the midwest understands those basic facts.

    So when the meat scare is propagated it makes the messenger look stupid. It’s not going to sell, just like the idea that wind turbines kill geese. We know better.

    […]

    Despite several fish kills from floods of manure in north-west Iowa rivers this spring, nothing will be done to prevent the next one. A meager fine will be assessed. People do care about that. They do care about antibiotic resistance and viral pandemics inherent in our system. They want reasonable solutions based on science and reality. When there is enough BS, they begin to think it stinks. That can have consequences.

  214. says

    Powell and Giuliani didn’t invent the Big Lie. The kraken was cooked up in a big-money scam

    In the beginning, the Big Lie was simple. When Rudy Giuliani first stepped up to talk about his supposed “proof” of election fraud in the hours and days following the election, his position was ridiculous, but always the same. There was, said Giuliani, “a plan” to plant fake ballots at polling stations. That plan was “specifically focused on big cities, and specifically focused on, as you would imagine, big cities controlled by Democrats.”

    So Giuliani’s basic accusation was that in “big cities controlled by Democrats,” Democrats turned out a lot of votes. Imagine that. Still, Giuliani said, “I know crimes, I can smell them.” And to Rudy, half a million or so Pennsylvania votes were stinky. As utterly unfounded, unsupportable, and unbelievable as it was, Giuliani’s basic version of the Big Lie was at least something that could be explained in a sentence: There was a grand plan to plant fake ballots in big cities across the country. Or, as this readily translates to Donald Trump’s core audience, Black people took away your president.

    It wasn’t until Sidney Powell joined in at a press conference on Nov. 19, 2020 that the Big Lie became a theory that was so wild, Trump actually had Giuliani issue a statement distancing him from Powell’s claims. Then, over a surprisingly short time, Powell’s utterly ludicrous concoction—one that involved long-dead Venezuelan dictators and a conspiracy involving hundreds of Republican officials who threw the race to Joe Biden—became the official position of the never-ending Trump campaign.

    There’s a reason. The Kraken didn’t emerge fully grown from Powell’s glistening forehead. It had been growing among Republican ranks for years, carefully nurtured and drip-fed. It started with presentations in a secret airplane hangar, and went door to door on visits with Republican donors.

    And what it told them was exactly what they wanted to hear.

    As The Washington Post reports, the origin story of Powell’s mythology doesn’t start with Giuliani, Powell, or anyone else who made an appearance at Four Seasons Landscaping. The man at the back of the story is a longtime Republican hustler named Russell Ramsland who has bounced among wildly different jobs in his effort to find “the next big thing.” That includes raising cattle on South Pacific islands, selling Tex-Mex cuisine in London, and growing crystals in space.

    But in 2018, Ramsland was hooking into a real growth market, because that’s when he began selling Republicans on the idea that there was a vast conspiracy to steal elections using electronic voting machines. The 2018 midterm elections had just handed the House over to Democrats and left Republicans with aching losses at the state level in areas they thought were safely red. […]

    Only Republicans—especially state- and county-level Republicans in places like Texas—already seemed convinced that Trump was supported by 101% of the American people, making the results of the election incomprehensible. They didn’t go looking for, “How can we do better?” They went looking for, “How did we get cheated?” And Ramsland was there, with top secret hearings conducted in an out of the way airplane hanger under strict “no electronic devices” protection.

    At those hearings, hundreds of Republicans “learned” what the rest of the nation would have to wait two years to see blurted out while hair dye poured down Giuliani’s face: Republicans had actually won all those races they thought they lost in 2018, only electronic voting machines were changing the results in favor of Democrats. All voting machines, according to Ramsland, were actually based on the same code—code written by the company “Smartmatic.” That common code base meant that all the machines were “wide open,” filled with “backdoors,” and ripe for fraud.

    None of this is, of course, true. Well before the hangar sessions, Ramsland had been trying to break into what he saw as the lucrative new field of selling Republicans bog-foolish conspiracy theories. That included claims that the deaths of U.S. diplomats in Benghazi were actually an intentional move by the “deep state,” […]

    Ramsland knew a good story when he saw one. […] Not only were the meetings held at a secret location in a windowless hangar, and not only where the attendees required to leave all electronic devices outside—once his flock of GOP sheep arrived, they were greeted a “white hat hacker” who identified himself using only a code name. That hacker then spread out a tale that told Republicans they were all winners. They couldn’t fail. They could only be cheated.

    Soon enough Ramsland’s company, Allied Security Operations Group, took the show on the road for big money Republican donors. […]

    And when 2020 came around, Ramsland found that he had a candidate on his hands who was absolutely perfect: desperate, willing to believe anything that said he was a winner, and able to lay his hands on unlimited campaign funds.

    And a hardworking con man finally had his ultimate pigeon.

  215. says

    Washington Post hires AP’s Buzbee as executive editor

    Sally Buzbee, executive editor and senior vice president of The Associated Press, has been named the new executive editor of The Washington Post, the paper reported on Tuesday.

    Buzbee will become the first woman to lead the Post’s newsroom when she begins work next month, replacing former executive editor Martin Baron, who retired in February.

    […] Other outlets that were seeking or are still searching for new leadership in recent months include ABC News, CBS News, HuffPost, Reuters and Vox. Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, is also expected to step down in the near future.

    Buzbee inherits a media organization that earned 10 Pulitzer Prizes under Baron, the former Boston Globe editor who revitalized the Post’s newsroom after his 2012 hiring and bolstered its coverage of former President Donald Trump’s administration.

    Crucial to the Post’s renaissance in recent years was the purchase of the paper in 2013 by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose investments helped facilitate an expansion of the newsroom to nearly 1,000 journalists and enabled the Post to flourish despite dire trends in the broader newspaper business. […]

  216. says

    Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered fiery criticism of Republicans on Tuesday for efforts around the country to tighten voter laws amid unproven claims made by former President Trump that the 2020 election was stolen.

    Schumer, speaking at a Senate Rules Committee meeting on a sweeping elections overhaul bill, accused Republicans of trying to act upon the “big lie that the election was stolen” to “placate” and “please” Trump.

    “Unfortunately, the big lie is spreading like a cancer among Republicans. It’s enveloping and consuming the Republican Party, in both houses of Congress,” Schumer said. […]

    Link

  217. says

    COVID-19 vaccine booster shots will be free to the public if they are needed, a top U.S. health official said Tuesday.

    David Kessler, the chief science officer for the White House’s COVID-19 response team, told senators at a hearing on Tuesday that the federal government has funding to purchase the next round of vaccines, so individuals won’t have to pay.

    “We are planning, and I underscore the word planning, to have booster doses available if necessary for the American people,” Kessler told the Senate Health Committee. […]

    “Beyond 2022? I look to your guidance, and your colleagues, on at what point do you transition back to a commercial market, but I think for this coming round we are going to proceed as we have proceeded,” he added. […]

    Pfizer’s vaccine is currently the most expensive of those currently in use under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization, at $39 for the two-shot regimen. Moderna’s vaccine costs about $32 per regimen and Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot dose costs $10.

    Unlike several other rival companies that developed COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer did not use federal funds and said it planned to make a profit. […]

    Frank D’Amelio, Pfizer’s chief financial officer, said on an earnings call in February that the $19.50 a dose is clearly “pandemic pricing” compared to what they typically charge for a vaccine, which is $150 to $175 a dose.

    Moving into the future, after the pandemic period, normal market forces will kick in and Pfizer is “going to get more on price” and will increase output at its factories, driving production costs per unit lower, D’Amelio said.

    In all, D’Amelio said there’s a “significant opportunity for those margins to improve once we get beyond the pandemic environment that we’re in.”

    Link

  218. says

    Follow-up to blf @250.

    Wonkette: “Rand Paul Flogs Fever Dreams About Fauci Creating COVID”

    Republicans are a pretty crass and nihilistic bunch, but Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is second to no Gipper in his willingness to burn down the country for the most evanescent of political gains. In preparation for another appearance by Dr. Anthony Fauci, a career public servant whose IRL job is to protect America’s health, he tweeted an article about the doctor decrying the politicization of his message.

    “Looking forward to tomorrow’s hearing, Dr. Fauci!” he snarked. Which was marginally more civil than Paul’s chief strategist Doug Stafford, who said in response to a New York Post story quoting Fauci on mask use, “I cannot say this strongly or clearly enough: Go fuck yourself.”

    Rand Paul was super stoked to go yet another round and PROVE that coronavirus is a hoax by discrediting the guy trying to save us from it. […] And so the senator showed up this morning ready to launder the latest rightwing fever dream that COVID-19 is Anthony Fauci’s fault because of his prior support for virus research in China. Having already convinced themselves that the virus was deliberately created in China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology and either released as a bioweapon or allowed to escape accidentally, Newsmax’s paint-huffing superfans were primed to believe this next iteration of the conspiracy theory.

    “Can you imagine if a SARS virus that’s been juiced up and had viral proteins added to it, to the spike protein, if that were released accidentally? Dr. Fauci, do you still support NIH funding of the lab in Wuhan?” Paul thundered.

    “Senator Paul, with all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect. The NIH has not ever and does not now fund research in the Wuhan Institute,” Fauci responded, referring to lab experiments to engineer more lethal viruses for study or development of treatment, a crucial component of the wingers’ theory.

    “Do you fund Dr. Barrack’s gain of function research?” Paul said, cutting off Fauci’s attempt to correct the record.

    “Dr. Barrack is not doing gain of function research, and if it is, it’s according to the guidelines, and it’s being conducted in North Carolina.”

    Paul went on to mischaracterize the research going on in North Carolina, telling Fauci that he was “in the minority” because two other scientists signed a statement disagreeing with him. Which is just how math works!

    And then they went around and around with Paul shouting over Fauci and trying to prove that the doctor subsidized COVID because the NIH made grants to the Wuhan Institute for Virology to study animal-borne pathogens and stop them from infecting people, which is clearly a devious plot to murder Americans with a hoax virus and cripple the economy.

    Is some rightwing loon posting shit in your Facebook feed about the EcoHealth Alliance like it’s the new Clinton Global Initiative? That’s because the NIH funded EcoHealth, which in turn hired the Wuhan Institute to research how viruses can jump from bats to humans. That’s it — that’s the whole gotcha theory as to how Fauci created COVID-19. According to these geniuses, we should never have subsidized research on viruses at their origin point, because if you never research something, it can never hurt you — that is just science.

    After Paul finished his ridiculous rant, Democratic Senator Tina Smith took her turn at the microphone to ask, “Dr. Fauci, what is the impact of conspiracy theories peddled by Senator Rand Paul and others on Americans’ willingness to take this vaccine, a vaccine which by all accounts is remarkable for its safety and efficacy?”

    “RAND PAUL IS A DERANGED PSYCHOPATH WHO WOULD SELL HIS OWN MOTHER FOR A GOOD NEWS CYCLE, AND HE’S DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THOUSANDS OF EXTRA AMERICAN DEATHS!” shouted the good doctor.

    Oh, wait, that was your Wonkette. Dr. Fauci is a fuckin’ professional, so he conducted himself with his usual discretion.

    “Well, conspiracy theories certainly are not helpful in what we’re trying to do,” he responded mildly. “I guess I can say that with some degree of confidence.”

    But “helpful” is really not Rand Paul’s bag, so he just wandered back to Twitter to call Fauci a liar. Third verse, same as the first, little bit louder and a whole lot worse.

    Link

    Video is available at the link.

  219. says

    Wonkette: “HAPPY NICE TIME SIGH OF RELIEF, It Is Time To Vaxx Up Your Middle School Kids!”

    As expected, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday gave emergency authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine to be given to kids aged 12 to 15. That means kids in middle school can get vaccinated in time for summer activities and before school starts in the fall, and we’ll all be just that much closer to something like having the pandemic under control.

    There’s just one more regulatory step to get through, a meeting Wednesday of the vaccine advisory committee, which is likely to recommend the vaccine for use. After that, kids 12 and up could start being vaccinated as soon as this week.

    The new authorization is hella good news, as NPR points out, since it

    expands the pool of eligible vaccine recipients to about 87% of the total U.S. population, covering an additional 17 million children, and comes at a time when people under age 18 account for one 1 of every 5 newly reported coronavirus infections.

    Even though children are less likely to experience severe cases of COVID-19, it’s still important to get them vaccinated, especially since kids in middle and high school are at more risk of getting the disease than elementary-aged kids.

    There’s every indication the Pfizer vaccine works very well with young teens. In the company’s study of more than 2,000 kids, not a single child given the vaccine had a symptomatic case of COVID-19, but in the group given a placebo, 18 kids became infected. The vaccinated kids also showed a “robust” antibody response that appears to be even better than in a previous study of 16- to 25-year-olds.

    The younger group had about the same range of side effects as adults do, mostly on the day after the second injection, ranging from injection site soreness, headaches, and fatigue to chills and muscle pain. Around 20 percent of the 12- to 15-year-olds also experienced fevers.

    The authorization of a vaccine for older kids comes well ahead of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s April suggestion that we’d be able to vaccinate middle and high schoolers by the fall, and maybe younger kids in early 2022. Pfizer says it’s doing clinical trials for children aged two to 11 now, and expects to request authorizations for the vaccine to be used for those age groups in September. For infants, it’s shooting for November. And the company has just filed the paperwork for full FDA authorization of the vaccine for adults, a regulatory step beyond the emergency-use authorization already granted.

    The other two vaccines currently authorized for use in adults aged 18 and up, from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, are undergoing trials in teens and kids as well. […]

    Link

  220. blf says

    As part of the Grauniad’s 200th anniversary, few snippets from The rudest things they ever said about the Guardian:

    Soon after he was elected leader of the Labour party, in 1994, [future “U”K PM Tony] Blair[liar] marched into the Guardian’s offices on Farringdon Road with a stack of clippings and his new spin doctor, Alastair Campbell. While Blair spoke, Campbell sat in the editor’s chair, swung back and put his feet on the desk, the Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland remembers.

    “It was like being hauled before the headteacher,” recalls the editor at the time, Alan Rusbridger, of the meeting with Blair and about 20 senior Guardian editorial staff. “He told us off for various articles, dropping them on the floor one at time, and then warned us that he would tell Labour party members to read the Telegraph because it was fairer.”

    Rusbridger, who was newly installed in his role at the time, says he was “secretly longing” for Blair to follow through with his threat. “Money couldn’t buy that kind of marketing.”

    That snippet reminds of possibly the best “marketing” the BBC ever had: After the attempted 1991 coup collasped, Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union said in an interview(? press briefing?) that whilst confined at his dacha, one of the staff found an old overlooked radio, so (paraphrasing) “We tuned into the BCC to learn what was happening.” (To be fair, this has since been disputed as a misleading paraphrase / translation, Gorbachev listens while being held captive.)

    When the Guardian voiced concern about the looming conflict with Argentina over the Falkland Islands [Islas Malvinas] in 1982, the Sun warned of the traitors in our midst, such as the pygmy Guardian.

    [Philip] Green threatened Guardian reporters with unpleasant things when they tracked him down to his £100m superyacht in Monaco to ask him about the looming collapse of his Arcadia retail empire putting 19,000 jobs at risk.

    As recounted in the article, Green has “priors” with insulting the Grauniad

    The Tesla billionaire Elon Musk emailed a reporter in 2018 to tell them that the Guardian is the most insufferable newspaper on planet Earth, in response to a question about whether it was appropriate for the chief executive of one of the world’s biggest companies to smoke marijuana on a live web show.

    After articles expressed dismay at Morrissey’s support for a far right group, he performed in Los Angeles wearing a vest with a simple slogan: Fuck the Guardian.

    Far more creative is Grace Petrie’s I Wish The Guardian Believed That I Exist (video).

  221. says

    Guardian – “Trump family members got ‘inappropriately close’ to Secret Service agents, book claims”:

    Two Trump family members got “inappropriately – and perhaps dangerously – close” to agents protecting them while Donald Trump was president, according to a new book on the US Secret Service.

    Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service, by the Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig, is published next week. The Guardian obtained a copy.

    In her new book, she writes that Secret Service agents reported that Vanessa Trump, the wife of the president’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr, “started dating one of the agents who had been assigned to her family”.

    Vanessa Trump filed for an uncontested divorce in March 2018. Leonnig reports that the agent concerned did not face disciplinary action as neither he nor the agency were official guardians of Vanessa Trump at that point.

    Leonnig also writes that Tiffany Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter with his second wife, Marla Maples, broke up with a boyfriend and “began spending an unusual amount of time alone with a Secret Service agent on her detail”.

    Secret Service leaders, the book says, “became concerned at how close Tiffany appeared to be getting to the tall, dark and handsome agent”.

    Agents are prohibited from forming personal relationships with those they protect, out of concern that such feelings could cloud their judgment.

    Both Tiffany Trump and the agent said nothing untoward was happening, Leonnig writes, and pointed out the nature of the agent’s job meant spending time alone with his charge. The agent was subsequently reassigned.

    Leonnig also reports that it was not clear if Donald Trump knew what Secret Service personnel were saying about his daughter and daughter-in-law.

    But she says the president did repeatedly seek to remove Secret Service staff he deemed to be overweight or too short for the job.

    “I want these fat guys off my detail,” Trump is reported to have said, possibly confusing office-based personnel with active agents. “How are they going to protect me and my family if they can’t run down the street?”

  222. says

    Jeff Bezos buys superyacht as Americans sink into poverty

    “Things are still really bad for a lot of people in this country, which makes it especially jarring when you remember that the wealthiest people in America have not just weathered the crisis—they have thrived,” says Chris Hayes.

    This is a good episode, with Chris Hayes covering all the basics and then some.

    […] Between March 18, 2020 and March 18, 2021, the wealth held by the world’s billionaires jumped from $8.04 trillion to $12.39 trillion dollars […] That’s a 50% increase in wealth during the worst pandemic in this country. […]

    The math here is obvious […] but orders of magnitude are hard. If you earn $50,000 a year, it would take twenty years to make a total of a million dollars. It would take twenty thousand years to get you a billion dollars, right? Jeff Bezos is worth nearly $200 billion dollars […]

    Nine out of ten of the world’s richest people are in the USA. There are 724 billionaires in the USA. We added more than 100 billionaires last year.

  223. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 262

    Unfortunately, the big lie is spreading like a cancer among Republicans. It’s enveloping and consuming the Republican Party, in both houses of Congress,”

    OK Chuck, what are you prepared to DO about the Republicans and this cancerous “Big Lie?” I mean, beside making long-winded speeches, that is?

    Nothing? OK, cool. Enjoy losing control of Congress next year.

  224. blf says

    Lynna@265, “Follow-up to blf @250…”
    Actually, it’s @240 & @246.
    The nutter at @250 is someone else, maybe Cassidy (see @245) again, I didn’t catch his name.
    A scorecard to keep track of all the different loons might help ?

  225. says

    Is Kevin McCarthy digging his own grave?

    Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) has been one of the few congressional Republicans willing to publicly criticize Donald Trump, but the Illinois congressman isn’t limiting his intra-party concerns to the former president.

    Yesterday, for example, Kinzinger said he specifically warned House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calf.) that their party was courting violence in the days preceding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, but McCarthy “dismissively” blew him off. In a National Press Club interview, Kinzinger added that in the wake of the insurrectionist riot, he considered bringing a vote of no confidence against McCarthy.

    “I actually thought the person that should have their leadership challenged was Kevin McCarthy after Jan. 6, because that’s why this all happened,” the Illinois Republican said.

    […] Politico reported this morning that there are signs of a burgeoning “backlash” against McCarthy, with some House Republicans questioning his “leadership qualities” and “privately griping” that the GOP leader has fed Conference Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) to the wolves in order to advance his own ambitions.

    Politico added, “And no, we’re not just hearing this from Adam Kinzinger types.”

    “Kevin McCarthy has pissed off enough members of his own conference that he’s going to have to go back to his former days as a whip to try to figure out where his votes are” to become speaker, said the member, who is neither a member of the Freedom Caucus nor a moderate. “I’d be worried if I was him…. You have people like me — who are here to do the right thing for all the right reasons and have an expectation of leadership — that are, shall we say, disgusted with the internal squabbling that results from having weak leadership. And it is weak leadership. Straight up.”

    […] This is consistent with the latest criticisms from the Washington Post’s Michael Gerson, a former George W. Bush speechwriter, who said McCarthy deserves an award for “monumental smallness in a time demanding leadership.” […]

    In late February, for example, Peter Navarro, a prominent voice in Trump World, lashed out at the House GOP leader, insisting, “Kevin McCarthy has to go. He no longer has the confidence of the MAGA portion of the Republican Party. He should not be welcome at Mar-a-Lago.”

    […] The minority leader is trying to lead a radicalized Republican conference, with no interest in governing and a set of wildly unpopular beliefs, while scrambling to satisfy his party’s failed former president, who has more power and influence than McCarthy, even over many of McCarthy’s own members. It’s a daunting challenge for anyone, much less an unaccomplished seven-term congressman.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that McCarthy is struggling […]

    Link

    McCarthy is no leader. He is just Trump’s lap dog.

  226. Akira MacKenzie says

    @ 269

    Gasp! How dare you express such blatant bigotry against our world’s poor, oppressed billionaires. They have it a lot harder than most people, what with class envy and finding new ways to skirt around those oppressive tax laws! I mean, just last week, Katlyn Jenner told this sad story of the man who rented the private airplane hanger next to hers being forced to emigrate to Sedona because he was forced to see homeless people! Leave Jeff and his superyacht alone!

    Seriously, though, Chris talks a good game about how the upper class enjoy lives of carefree opulence while the rest of us scape by paycheck-to-paycheck, but what does he actually want to do to alleviate this situation… I mean, besides making the rich pay a few bucks more in taxes each year? Has it ever occurred to him that wealth inequality and poverty are a feature of the capitalist system that he and other liberals claim they can reform rather than a bug? Chris is worth about $5 million, so I doubt it.

  227. says

    This is funny … and a schadenfreude moment, when a Newsmax host was trolled on live TV by a former Obama speechwriter.

    Newsmax host Rob Finnerty found himself getting bamboozled on live television on Monday morning by his own guest, former Obama speechwriter David Litt, who used the interview as an opportunity to call out the conservative media outlet for fueling Trumpland’s deranged conspiracy theories about the 2020 election.

    The segment went off the rails immediately after it began when Finnerty asked Litt what his thoughts were on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s performance as the host of Saturday Night Live.

    “Well Rob, it’s a great question,” the guest replied. “What happened on SNL this weekend was that people made stuff up and then said it on television like it’s true, and that actually happens pretty frequently in American TV.”

    […] “For example in 2020, Dominion Voting Systems sued Newsmax over its false claims about election fraud,” he continued. “Newsmax was lying to its own viewers and Newsmax had to settle that lawsuit.”

    “Actually, I just need to check in: Are you still telling that lie or are you telling new lies?” Litt added.

    Finnerty snapped, “I’m sorry David, do you want to talk about something completely non-related and try to catch me on a Monday morning totally off topic, or do you want to talk about Elon Musk?”

    “I can see why you don’t want to talk about Dominion Voting Systems because if you do, Newsmax could get sued and lose billions of dollars because these are lies,” Litt replied.

    He didn’t let up when the Newsmax host, grumbling that “this is a very funny moment for” Litt, attempted to steer the conversation back to SNL.

    “Did Dominion Voting Systems have any impact on the 2020 election?” Litt asked Finnerty.

    The show producers cut his feed.

    “David, we look forward to having you back on very soon again. That was a stellar interview,” Finnerty huffed after his guest was removed.

    In an interview with TPM, Litt explained what led up to that moment.

    “I knew I wasn’t going to go on there and have a normal discussion, as though Newsmax hadn’t helped incite the riots on January 6, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to back out at the last minute or [instead] try to point out what most Newsmax viewers don’t get to see very often,” Litt said.

    [Litt] said that Newsmax had planned for him and Finnerty to discuss “wokeness” in late night comedy, a common set-up for handwringing over right-wing culture grievances.

    Litt nearly backed out of the interview at the last minute, believing that the pro-Trump network just wanted to bring on a Democrat to make themselves look more like a “legitimate” outlet after lying about the election being rigged against ex-President Donald Trump.

    But the writer decided he’d use his appearance to expose Newsmax’s dishonesty after discussing it with his wife. […] That on-air callout “is the kind of thing I would hope someone else would do if they were in this position, so I had to at least give it a shot,” the writer said.

    He said that his goal wasn’t just to call out Newsmax for its disinformation, but to make its audience aware that they were being “defrauded” by the outlet.

    “It was very important to me not just to say ‘you’re lying,’ but ‘lying to your viewers,” Litt told TPM. […]

    Link

    BTW, blf @272, thanks for the correction.

  228. says

    In contrast to CNN, Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC is interviewing a Palestinian man threatened with eviction (see the article @ #186 for more). (Who of course had to be followed by a former Israeli ambassador, but he’s asking him decent questions, which are being met with much whining and evasion.)

  229. blf says

    Brony@273, paraphrased someone as claiming (about vaccinated IDs), “we can’t do it because people will lie or make fake IDs.”

    Just like driving licenses and so on, up and including the usual “gold standard”, passports. Geesh!
    But that comparison does point out an issue…

    My current understanding is the States “plans” are for privately-issued “IDs” (like frequent-shopper discount cards) — not government-issued (like passports, etc.) — which seems like a nightmare in trying to work out whether or an “ID” is valid (in at least two senses: not-faked, and also as genuine (reputable) proof). There has already been at least case (albeit here in France) of a fraudulent test certificate scam, Coronavirus: Fake test certificate gang foiled at Paris airport.

    The situation here in the EU is slightly better, in the sense most reputable-proof “plans” (as I last understood the situation) are for national-level proof-of-vaccination, but each country seems to be doing its own thing with not too much being said about mutual acceptance or ability for another EU country to confirm it’s valid. Which, given most “plans” seem to be for an app (often(?) tied to the country’s track-and-trace app), seems like a repeat of the track-and-trace app fiasco, where most apps are country-specific with next-to-no interoperability. E.g., if a German, say, visitor comes to my French village and we happen to be in close proximity to each other for awhile, then a few days later one of us is found to be infected, the other of us will never find out via their app of a potential Risk since (simplifying) their German app and my French app “cannot” talk to each other.

    There are also concerns about whether or not such proof is a good approach, albeit perhaps not-so-much as the States-side thug Yellow Star tyranny! bellowings (e.g., @216), but the potential unfairness: E.g., younger people won’t be able to obtain the proof for some time, simply because they are last in the queue to be vaccinated.

  230. blf says

    More on today’s @240 / @246 Dr Fauci–”Senator” Rand Paul exchange, from the Grauniad’s current Rand Paul is an eejit live blog, with video, and citing Axios for the transcript (all emboldening in the Grauniad, with Grauniad edits in {curly braces}):

    […]
    Paul: For years, Dr Ralph Baric, a virologist in the US, has been collaborating with Dr Shi Zhengli from the Wuhan Virology Institute, sharing his discoveries about how to create superviruses. This gain-of-function research has been funded by the {National Institutes of Health (NIH)} … Dr Fauci, do you still support funding of the NIH lab in Wuhan?

    Fauci: “With all due respect, you are entirely and completely incorrect. The NIH has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

    Paul: Do you fund Dr Baric’s gain-of-function research?

    Fauci: “Dr Baric is not doing gain-of-function research, and if it is, it is according to the guidelines and is being conducted in North Carolina.”

    And…

    Paul: Will you categorically say that the Covid-19 could not have occurred through serial passage in a laboratory?

    Fauci: “I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I am fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China. However, I will repeat again, the NIH and {National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)} categorically has not funded gain-of-function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

  231. says

    Raw Story – “‘Cold-blooded fraudster’: Students for Trump co-founder gets prison term for posing as a lawyer”:

    The baby-faced Students for Trump founder was denounced as a “cold-blooded fraudster” by a judge before he was sentenced for posing as a lawyer.

    John Lambert was sentenced to 13 months in prison for the scam targeting individuals with little experience seeking legal advice, for which he was paid at least $46,654 while delivering little of value to his victims, reported the New York Daily News.

    The 25-year-old Lambert posed as Eric Pope, of the Manhattan-based firm Pope & Dunn, and falsely claimed to be a graduate of the New York University School of Law with a finance degree from the University of Pennsylvania, with 15 years of experience in corporate and patent law.

    “I lost focus on who I was,” Lambert said in court. “My ignorance was a disrespect to the law and my country. My life will be forever marked by this poor choice at a young age.”

    He and classmate Ryan Fournier founded Students for Trump, which ran a Twitter account photos of bikini-clad women and showed themselves at political events, while students in 2015 at Campbell University in North Carolina.

    Fournier was listed as a co-conspirator in the fraud but reached a cooperation agreement with prosecutors in the case.

  232. blf says

    Loosely related to @15 — albeit you’d never know it from the title — Trillions of brood X cicadas move closer to emergence as soil temperatures rise. The article’s mostly about eating the cicadas, “some US chefs and bug enthusiasts are looking to adopt traditions of entomophagy — the consumption of insects — in both ceremonial and nutritional terms.”

    A snippet:

    Sean Sherman, founder and chief of the Sioux Chef and member of the Oglala Lakota, told the outlet that the non-profit wants to put insects on the menu at his new restaurant, Owamni, opening this month.

    “We have all sorts of amazing, diverse proteins across North America. If you’re looking at food from an Indigenous perspective, you really have to include insects,” Sherman, who won the 2018 James Beard award for best American cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen, told Indian Country Today.

    “Edible insects such as grasshoppers are still used in Mexico today; the history of colonialism has stripped away our Indigenous foods, depicting them as inferior,” Sherman said, adding that “people should be open to exploring protein options beyond cows, chicken and pigs.”

    I can certainly vouch for Mexican grasshoppers — albeit I’ve only had them here in France — they are quite tasty.

    Amusingly, as I was typing this, I was, by coincidence, listening to Grace Petrie’s The Vegan Song (video).

  233. says

    CNN – “Judge dismisses NRA’s bankruptcy petition, allowing New York AG lawsuit to move forward”:

    A federal judge has dismissed the National Rifle Association’s petition for bankruptcy, saying it was filed in “bad faith” in order to avoid litigation by the New York Attorney General’s Office, which has sued to dissolve the NRA for allegedly misusing charitable funds.

    Tuesday’s decision means the NRA will not have bankruptcy protections, which it has said is needed to protect against a “barrage of litigation” the organization is facing.

    The decision from Judge Harlin Hale, of the Northern District of Texas, came after a month-long trial in which NRA attorneys and officials argued that their bankruptcy case should move forward in Texas. New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office intervened in the case and asked to dismiss the petition, saying the NRA’s decision to file for bankruptcy in Texas and ask to be reincorporated there was a way to “remove the NRA from regulatory oversight.”

    Hale agreed with James’ office’s argument in his ruling issued Tuesday.

    “The Court finds there is cause to dismiss this bankruptcy case as not having been filed in good faith both because it was filed to gain an unfair litigation advantage and because it was filed to avoid a state regulatory scheme,” Hale wrote in his decision.

    Hale also declined to appoint a trustee or examiner to oversee the NRA’s finances.

    In a statement posted to Twitter, James said, “The NRA does not get to dictate if and where it will answer for its actions, and our case will continue in New York court. No one is above the law.”

    Hale declined to dismiss the case with prejudice, meaning the NRA could still decide to file a bankruptcy petition in another venue, but Hale warned that if the NRA choses to file a new bankruptcy case, his court would immediately take up some of its concerns about “disclosure, transparency, secrecy, conflicts of interest of litigation counsel,” among others, which could lead to the appointment of a trustee to oversee the organization’s affairs….

    More atl.

  234. says

    Reuters – “‘Rationals’ vs. ‘radicals’: Anti-Trump Republicans threaten third party”:

    Over 100 former Republican officials will sign a letter on Thursday declaring that if the Republican Party does not break with former President Donald Trump and change course, they will back the creation of a third party.

    The letter, headlined: “A Call For American Renewal,” is an exploratory move toward forming a breakaway party, two of its organizers said. The group is dismayed by what it says is a modern Republican Party driven by its allegiance to Trump, who continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen from him.

    “The Republican Party is broken. It’s time for a resistance of the ‘rationals’ against the ‘radicals,’” said Miles Taylor, one of the organizers. Taylor, while serving in the Trump White House, wrote an anonymous opinion piece in the New York Times in 2018 headlined: “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration.”

    The group first raised the threat in February, following the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters to try to disrupt congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential election victory.

    The letter highlights the wide intraparty rift over Trump.

    Most Republicans remain fiercely loyal to the former president.

    House Republicans are expected on Wednesday to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her No. 3 party leadership position within the chamber, because of her refusal to embrace Trump’s election claims and her move to back Trump’s second impeachment after the Capitol riot.

    The letter signatories, who include former ambassadors, governors, congressional members and Cabinet secretaries, want the Republican Party to return to “principled” leadership and reject division and conspiracy theories, or face a new party dedicated to fighting for Republicans such as Cheney and against fearmongering and lies.

    Backers of the reform group include former Republican Governors Tom Ridge, Christine Todd Whitman, George W. Bush-era Transportation Secretary Mary Peters and former House members Charlie Dent, Barbara Comstock, Reid Ribble and Mickey Edwards.

    They may face an uphill battle in getting any current Republican officeholders to sign on – including Cheney herself, who in February rejected the idea of a third party, saying it would empower Democrats.

    Evan McMullin, a former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference and an independent presidential candidate in 2016, said if the Republican Party does not reject lies and extremism, part of it “will have no choice but to part ways with it and build something new. We’re excited about that prospect.”

  235. blf says

    How much? Mayoral hopefuls red-faced after guessing New York housing costs:

    […]
    With less than six weeks to New York’s mayoral primaries, two candidates have left themselves electorally vulnerable for vastly underestimating the median cost of buying a home or apartment in Brooklyn.

    In Brooklyn, huh? I don’t know for sure. I would guess it is around $100,000, Shaun Donovan, housing and urban development secretary under former President Obama and housing commissioner under the former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, told the New York Times.

    […]

    In the same set of endorsement-seeking interviews, Ray McGuire, a wealthy former Citigroup executive, guessed that the median sales price was somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher.

    […]

    The tech entrepreneur and 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang guessed correctly [but see following excerpt –blf], while two other candidates, Maya Wiley and the former NYC financial comptroller Scott Stringer, both guessed over $1m, with Wiley suggesting $1.8m.

    Brooklyn’s median sales price is $900,000.

    […]

    Donovan and McGuire’s wild underestimation of housing costs, particularly in a borough where average individual income is about $32,000 and has, in parts, seen an affordable housing crisis develop as a result of rapid gentrification, was widely mocked on social media and by progressives.

    “How could people running for mayor of the city not know this? Because most people want power, but few want responsibility,” podcast host Ashley C Ford posted on Twitter.

    […]

    For many progressives, Dianne Morales, a former executive with Phipps Neighborhood, an affordable housing developer, has emerged as a favorite to replace De Blasio. In her interview with the Times editorial board, Morales came relatively close to guessing correctly.

    “Oh, my gosh. The median sales price of a home or apartment. I don’t know, half a million.”

    Yang has more problems, from the Grauniad’s current States pandemic and politics live blog:

    New York mayor hopeful Andrew Yang said he was asked not to attend an Astoria event where he was meant to distribute groceries ahead of Eid, after his staunch pro-Israel stance amid the attacks and forced expulsions in East Jerusalem.

    Yang has come under fire after tweeting yesterday: I’m standing with the people of Israel who are coming under bombardment attacks, and condemn the Hamas terrorists. The people of NYC will always stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel who face down terrorism and persevere.

    But Yang failed to provide context for the Hamas attack that followed an Israeli government orders that would forcibly expel six Palestinians families from generational homes. Amid escalating tension over the order, Israeli officers escalated violence, stormed a mosque, and wounded over 300 unarmed Palestinians.

    When Israel and Hamas exchanged fire today, Israeli strikes killed at least 25 Palestinians including nine children were killed in Gaza.

    “Utterly shameful for Yang to try to show up to an Eid event after sending out a chest-thumping statement of support for a strike killing 9 children,” New York representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez said.

    […]

    Despite heavy criticism, Yang hasn’t backed off his pro-Israel statement.
    […]

  236. says

    Humor/satire from Andy Borowitz: “Kevin McCarthy Forced to Fly to Mar-a-Lago to Sit and Listen to Things Trump Would Have Posted on Facebook”

    Kevin McCarthy has been repeatedly summoned to Mar-a-Lago over the past week to sit and listen to Donald J. Trump recite things that he would have posted on Facebook, the House Minority Leader has confirmed.

    Since Trump’s ban by the social-media platform was upheld, the former President has commanded McCarthy on three separate occasions to fly down to Palm Beach to hear the forbidden posts.

    “It was really interesting, for example, to hear what he had to say about Elon Musk hosting ‘S.N.L’ ” McCarthy, who was returning from Reagan National Airport, said. “He thought that Musk was not nearly as good as he’d been.”

    McCarthy said that the repeated summons to Mar-a-Lago were “in no way” interfering with his ability to attend to his duties in Washington.

    “It’s no trouble at all,” McCarthy said. “Ivanka, Jared, Eric, and Don, Jr., are all there, too, and they’re not allowed to leave the room, either. It’s an honor to be included.”

    New Yorker link

  237. says

    Politico:

    The Biden administration is reversing a Trump-era policy that barred undocumented college students and others from receiving federal relief grants meant to help pay for expenses like food, housing, and child care during the coronavirus pandemic.

    Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Tuesday finalized a new regulation that allows colleges to distribute tens of billions in federal pandemic relief grants to all students, regardless of their immigration status or whether they qualify for federal student aid.

    “The pandemic didn’t discriminate which students got Covid, so the final rule does allow for all students” to access the funding, Cardona told reporters. The goal, he said, was to “make sure that all students have an opportunity to have access to the funds to help them get back on track.”

    The policy change was unveiled on Tuesday as the Education Department announced it would begin distributing $36 billion in federal relief funding for higher education, part of the $1.9 trillion Covid relief package that President Joe Biden signed in March. Colleges and universities will each receive an allocation of the funding under a formula spelled out in that law, based in part on the share of Pell grant recipients enrolled at each school.

    Colleges must pass along roughly half of their Covid relief dollars directly to students in the form of emergency financial aid cash grants. But unlike with previous rounds of Covid relief funding, colleges will now be free to provide that money to any of their students.[…]

  238. blf says

    This is almost exactly one year old, I just found it, Fake News by Grace Petrie (video). Some of the lyrics:

    The hidden hand
    The secret power
    He is reading all about it way beyond the wishing hour
    I have seen documentaries
    Indisputable proof
    He can’t understand why so many just won’t face the truth
    And there’s are a million others like him, down the rabbit hole
    Who are looking for solutions to the sadness in their soul
    And if its villains that you’re looking for, and YouTube’s crawling with ‘em
    So question everything except the algorithm
    So all he sees around him are imagined, enemies
    So busy fighting them and not placating nemeses
    While he’s looking at his iPhone and watching smart TV’s

    Another storm
    A forest fire
    The fields lie yellow, and the tides are rising ever higher
    It’s a crisis already
    Soon there’ll be nothing to say
    And the BBC calls it hashtag February heatwave
    And the scientists are frantic
    Trying to spell out what’s at stake
    It’s convenient the president won’t believe that it’s not fake
    Because there’s people in their habitat, don’t rate as high as profit
    And they’re all against destruction unless they’re getting richer off it
    So they poisoned all the river and they poisoned all the seas
    They tore apart the forests and they cut down all the trees
    While we were looking at our iPhones watching smart TV’s

    […]

  239. says

    Guardian – “Covid pandemic was preventable, says WHO-commissioned report”:

    The Covid pandemic was a preventable disaster that need not have cost millions of lives if the world had reacted more quickly, according to an independent high-level panel, which castigates global leaders and calls for major changes to bring it to an end and ensure it cannot happen again.

    The report of the panel, chaired by Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia, found “weak links at every point in the chain”.

    It said preparation was inconsistent and underfunded, the alert system too slow and too meek while the World Health Organization was under-powered. It concluded that the response has exacerbated inequalities. “Global political leadership was absent,” the report said.

    Clark described February 2020 as “a month of lost opportunity to avert a pandemic, as so many countries chose to wait and see”.

    “For some, it wasn’t until hospital ICU beds began to fill that more action was taken,” she said. “And by then it was too late to avert the pandemic impact. What followed then was a winner takes all scramble for PPE and therapeutics. Globally, health workers were tested to their limits and the rates of infection, illness and death soared and continue to soar.”

    Sirleaf said: “The situation we find ourselves in today could have been prevented. An outbreak of a new pathogen, Sars CoV-2 became a catastrophic pandemic that has now killed more than 3.25 million people, and continues to threaten lives and livelihoods all over the world. It is due to a myriad of failures, gaps and delays in preparedness and response. This was partly due to failure to learn from the past.”

    Urgent action must be taken, she said. “There are many reviews of previous health crises that include sensible recommendations. Yet, they sit gathering dust in UN basements and on government shelves… Our report shows that most countries of the world were simply not prepared for a pandemic.”

    The report was commissioned by the WHO director general at the instigation of member states, who called at the World Health Assembly in May last year for an impartial review of what happened and what could be learned from the pandemic.

    The panel calls for radical changes to bring heads of state together to oversee pandemic preparations, ensuring the finance and tools the world needs are in place. They want a faster-moving, better-resourced WHO. And they want a commitment now from leaders of affluent countries to supply vaccines for the rest of the world.

    The panel says it is “deeply concerned and alarmed” about the current high rates of transmission of the virus and the emergence of variants. Every country must take the necessary measures to curb the spread, says the report. High income countries with enough vaccines ordered for their own needs must commit to providing at least 1bn doses by 1 September to Covax, the UN-backed initiative to get vaccines to 92 low and middle-income countries, and more than 2bn doses by mid-2022.

    The G7 countries must provide 60% of $19bn (£13.45bn) needed for vaccines, therapeutics, tests and strengthening health systems, with the rest from the G20 and other high-income nations. The WHO and the World Trade Organization must bring together vaccine-producing countries and manufacturers to help scale up production around the world – and if nothing happens, then the patent waiver that middle-income countries have called for and the US has backed should come into force.

  240. says

    Guardian – “Animals to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law”:

    Animals are to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law for the first time, in a victory for animal welfare campaigners, as the government set out a suite of animal welfare measures including halting most live animal exports and banning the import of hunting trophies.

    The reforms will be introduced through a series of bills, including an animal sentience bill, and will cover farm animals and pets in the UK, and include protections for animals abroad, through bans on ivory and shark fins, and a potential ban on foie gras.

    Some of the measures – including microchipping cats and stopping people keeping primates as pets – have been several years in preparation, and others – such as the restriction of live animal exports – have been the subject of decades-long campaigns….

  241. says

    Stephen Collinson at CNN – “Cheney shames colleagues who will purge her for disloyalty to Trump”:

    Liz Cheney won’t move on and stop speaking about the threat to American democracy posed by Donald Trump for a simple reason: It hasn’t gone away.

    In a short, powerful speech late Tuesday, the lawmaker from Wyoming shamed colleagues who will vote on Wednesday to strip her of her No. 3 House GOP leadership post, showing the guts to speak truth to the ex-President’s malevolent power that most Republicans lack.

    History is likely to remember her remarks far longer than the tortured explanations of Republican power brokers — like Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California — as to why she must be purged after pointing out Trump’s lies and dangerous authoritarianism.

    Cheney spoke in a mostly empty House of Representatives on Tuesday night, after many of her fellow Republicans had spent the day saying it was time to move on from Trump’s insurrection and trashing of America’s tradition of peaceful transfers of power.

    But Cheney made a blunt case that the party and the country cannot forget — not least because the peril from the seditious ex-President is still growing.

    “Today we face a threat America has never seen before. A former President who provoked a violent attack on this Capitol, in an effort to steal the election, has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him,” said Cheney, speaking slowly and in devastating clarity.

    “He risks inciting further violence. Millions of Americans have been misled by the former President. They have heard only his words, not the truth.”

    “I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative principles is reverence for the rule of law,” Cheney said. “The election is over. That is the rule of law. That is our constitutional process. Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution.”

    In the short term at least, Cheney’s action is unlikely to do anything to drive Trumpism from a party it has consumed. McCarthy has wholeheartedly anchored the GOP’s hopes of winning the House back in midterm elections next year in Trump’s continued appeal. Millions of Republican voters, helped by round-the-clock lies from conservative media, buy Trump’s false narrative that the election was stolen from him with massive electoral fraud. There is very little sign — apart from a few honorable exceptions like Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — of any appetite in the party to change its delusional and anti-democratic course.

    A former President George W. Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that Cheney’s speech was a recognition that the United States was at a “hinge point” that would decide on the future of the rule of law.

    “This is a terrible danger. We have one party at the national level that is not committed to accepting the outcome of legitimate elections,” Gerson said.

    “That’s not something that you can tolerate in the long run; that is a recipe for edging towards authoritarianism. So I think that it is a stark choice.”

    Cheney countered criticisms of her conduct by telling her colleagues they had a patriotic duty to speak up, not least because a new Cold War may be brewing, this time with China, and Trump’s malfeasance was playing into propaganda designed to show America as a failed nation.

    “Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Cheney said, in a passage that seemed especially directed at McCarthy.

    “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former President’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

  242. says

    Here’s a link to the May 12 Guardian coronavirus world liveblog.

    From their summary:

    Coronavirus cases are exploding in Asia and the Pacific with over 5.9 million new confirmed infections in the past two weeks, more than in all other regions combined, the International Federation of the Red Cross has said.

    India recorded 348,421 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours, which is down on the 400,000-plus figures it was racking up earlier this month. However, India posted a record rise in deaths from Covid-19 in the 24 hours to Wednesday morning local time, pushing its total fatalities past the 250,000 mark.

    The head of the main Indian health agency responding to the coronavirus has said districts reporting a high number of infections should remain locked down for another six to eight weeks to control the spread of the rampaging disease.

    Taiwan’s health authorities have reported 16 new locally transmitted cases – the highest daily number in Taiwan during this pandemic.

    French health minister Olivier Véran has warned his compatriots that they will have to adapt their summer holidays to fit around when they need their second vaccine.

    France’s parliament, meanwhile, has overnight backed president Emmanuel Macron’s plan to introduce a Covid “health pass”, after deputies pushed back against the move, arguing it was discriminatory for those not yet vaccinated.

    Spain’s Balearic and Canary islands and Greece are expected to be the preferred destinations for Europeans booking long-awaited summer holidays when the travel industry reopens, according to the travel group Tui….

  243. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Hungary has submitted to Brussels a national plan for accessing the EU’s post-pandemic recovery fund, which it had previously threatened to veto over proposals to link some payments to rule of law conditions, the European Commission has said.

    AFP reports:

    The €750-billion rescue package of grants and loans comprises funds contributed by the EU’s 27 member states to help the bloc’s economies hard hit by the coronavirus.

    Budapest and Warsaw threatened to veto the fund last year, along with the entire EU budget, over proposals to link some fund payments to rule of law conditions, describing it as “political blackmail”.

    Hungary has requested €7.2 billion in grants to support its “green transition, healthcare, research, digital, cohesion and public administration” until 2026, the European Commission.

    According to Worldometer, Hungary currently has the highest COVID deaths per million people (2,997) in the world.

  244. says

    CNN – “Former acting defense secretary to say he worried about appearance of ‘military coup’ at US Capitol on January 6”:

    Former acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller is expected to tell Congress Wednesday that he was concerned sending US troops to Capitol on January 6 would have encouraged the conspiracy of a possible “military coup,” according to his prepared testimony obtained by CNN.

    Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, at the same hearing, will reaffirm that the Justice Department did not find evidence of widespread voter fraud that could have changed the outcome of the 2020 election….

    More atl. The hearing will be at 10 ET.

  245. says

    Ryan Goodman:

    In advance of Congressional hearing with former acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller (finally!), @K8brannen and I prepared a Timeline.

    Shows gross omissions in DoD’s public timeline.

    Points to a COVER UP (see especially critical 2:22pm phone call)…

    More atl.

  246. blf says

    The only reason I chased this point a little bit is because last night Jimmy Kimmel (MyPillow Mike’s Ranting Rally, Jenner’s Poll Problems, Tiger on the Loose & Viral Menthol Soap Guy (video)) snarked on a rally by the mypilau eejit (apoligies to pilau rice, which is excellent), pointing out the arena he booked was only half-full. However, his numbers didn’t add up — assuming he wasn’t joking — saying (paraphrasing from memory) 30,000 were expected but only 1,500 showed up. I presumed that was a misstatement (misreading his autocue or something?). But as it turns out, all three values are (broadly) correct: Claims of by teh eejit of an expected 30,000, to be in a venue capable of only 3,200, with only 1,500 attendees (some of whom apparently queued for 7 hours beforehand), Mike Lindell’s South Dakota rally: Proud Boys, Joe Piscopo and a can’t-miss investment:

    MyPillow CEO draws half-full house at the Corn Palace, vows Trump will be back, gets stuck with his own books

    MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell held his much-anticipated-by-fans Frank Speech rally Monday night at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota, where there was no shortage of baseless claims about the 2020 election. The event was billed as providing a venue for Lindell to relaunch his failed social media platform Frank, but no announcement about the platform occurred.

    Before the event began, a long line of people waiting to get into the venue wrapped around the outside of the building. But once they got inside, the situation was less impressive. Only around 1,500 people tuned out for the event, which Lindell had initially boasted might draw a crowd of 30,000 supporters. (In fact, the Corn Palace’s seating capacity is just 3,200.) Even so, Business Insider’s Grace Dean noted that some attendees waited in line for seven hours before the doors opened.

    […]

    At one point, [former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Joe] Piscopo’s microphone stopped working, most likely a standard technical error of the sort that bedevils performers at all levels of the entertainment ecosystem. The once-popular late-night comedian chose to blame the malfunction on Chinese interference. We’re not racist, Piscopo declared, apropos of nothing. I travel around the country, and we’re a good country. They are criticizing us every which way, and tonight it stops.

    […]

    With attendees reportedly on edge over the supposed threat that antifa might sabotage the event, Lindell, the evening’s Elvis equivalent, took to the stage, where he shared his life story but neglected to say anything about a relaunch of Frank, the supposed purpose of the event to begin with.

    Lindell spoke for around 90 minutes, sprinkling in random tangents meant to support his baseless claims of 2020 voter fraud and allegations that China was somehow to blame. The pillow magnate once again suggested that once the truth is known, the Supreme Court will unanimously vote to void the election results and reinstall Trump as president. (No legal or constitutional mechanism exists that could accomplish that result.)

    […]

    Salon also learned about an investment opportunity being pushed during the rally, which optimistically (yet reasonably) promised a 3,500% return. Seemingly too good to be true! The custom-made flyers touted, We are living in a time of war against the deep state, so it is wise to be prepared, while the investment scheme offered the opportunity to expel deep-state operatives, communists, and socialists from the US educational system.

    [image at the link — it’s hilarious; especially if you goto the associated website (pay very close attention to the fine print!)†…]

    Once the rally ended, representatives for Lindell encouraged attendees to take home multiple boxes of the pillow maven’s book. Apparently, Lindell was prepared to hand out 30,000-plus copies of his election fraud movies and books, but as it turns out, he literally couldn’t give them away.

    […]

    If there really were 30,000 copies of teh Scrolls of Lin de lala my Pillow there, then he would seem to be so deluded he cannot even see the difference between 30,000 and 3,200 — which might explain why an extremely dubious alleged 3,500%-gain scam was promoted.

      † Here’s an example of some of the fine print from the home page of the associated site (which I will not link to): Returns on your investment will be paid as GRANTS either to your own nonprofit (that you create / control and that may pay you for your services and related expenses), or to another nonprofit that you designate. The Offering […] is made exclusively to members of LOTA [“The Legacy of the Angels […], a nondenominational spiritual organization” …]

  247. says

    The hearing with Miller and Rosen has begun. I believe Carolyn Maloney, the House Oversight and Reform Committee chair, said in her opening that the FBI and DoJ haven’t turned over a single document to any of the five or six congressional committees that have requested them. She also said she had wanted Chris Wray to testify today, had sent him several invitations, and had even postponed the hearing twice to accommodate him, and he’s still not there. She did say he’s now scheduled to testify in June, but WTF.

    I had to mute the opening statement from the Republican ranking member, Comer. I simply don’t know how much longer this can go on – the Republicans in the House just continue to get worse after January 6th. The Democrats on the committee include: Jamie Raskin, AOC, Katie Porter, and Jackie Speier. The Republicans include: Jim Jordan, Paul Gosar, Clay Higgins, and Andy Biggs.

  248. says

    Guardian world liveblog:

    Coronavirus vaccines using mRNA technology like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna appear able to “neutralise” the variant of Covid-19 behind India’s outbreak, the EU’s drug watchdog said Wednesday.

    AFP has the story:

    There is “promising evidence” that such jabs could counter the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October and now in dozens of countries around the world, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.

    “The data seems to be rather reassuring on the fact that at least the messenger RNA vaccines will be able to neutralise this variant, at least to an extent that will guarantee sufficient protection,” Marco Cavaleri, the EMA’s head of vaccine strategy, told a news conference.

    The Amsterdam-based regulator was “monitoring very closely” the data emerging about the Indian variant, he added.

    Cavaleri said the EMA also believed rival vaccines using viral vector technology would be effective but they were waiting for “real world data” from the use of a version of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in India.

  249. says

    DC Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee is also testifying in the House Oversight hearing. I don’t know why his statement wasn’t discussed in the media beforehand.

  250. says

    TPM – “Cheney Officially Out As January 6 Attack Reverberates Through Congress”:

    The January 6 Capitol attack reverberates through the halls of Congress Wednesday as committees investigate what happened and a member of Republican leadership loses her job for telling the truth about it.

    House Republicans gathered at 9 a.m. ET to decide the fate of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who incurred the wrath of her colleagues for refusing to absolve former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies for spreading the election fraud conspiracy theory. Minutes later, she was voted out.

    While Congress is still reeling from Cheney’s ouster, various committees will grill high-profile witnesses on the January 6 attack and the conditions that caused it….

    At the link is a liveblog of the Cheney meeting earlier (McCarthy chose to go with a voice vote rather than a private ballot) and the various hearings.

  251. says

    From the TPM liveblog:

    Dem Rep Seems Baffled At GOP ‘Revisionist History’

    House Oversight: Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) expressed his incredulity at the “revisionist history” put forth by some Republicans on the committee so far today.

    It has been nuts. Both Gosar and Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA) tried to argue that January 6 was not actually violent, and that Trump was totally innocent.

    Lynch is now trying to arm-wrestle Miller into admitting that Trump provoked the mob to march on the Capitol. Miller has essentially said as much before, but is now trying to muddy it up.

    It ended with an argument, as Lynch cried “you’re ridiculous!” after Miller called Lynch’s assessment that he reversed his testimony “ridiculous.”

    Between the Republicans on the committee and the pathetic Trump stooges testifying, it’s insane.

  252. says

    blf @302, MyPillow Mike’s inability to even give his books away is a telling detail. That guy is not a competent grifter/scammer. He’s an eejit for sure.

    SC @303, “I simply don’t know how much longer this can go on.” I was thinking the same thing.

    SC @299, I am worried that, even if the EU gives a recovery grant to Hungary, the corrupt (and rightwing) officials in Hungary will not properly administer the grant funds. There’s a reason “Hungary currently has the highest COVID deaths per million people (2,997) in the world.”

  253. says

    Summarized from NBC News:

    Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) yesterday signed a new law that will purge infrequent mail voters from the state’s ballot list. Democrats and other voting-rights advocates said the measure will make voting harder by removing voters from Arizona’s Permanent Early Voting List, but it nevertheless enjoyed support from GOP legislators.

    Yet another thing that is going on longer than one would have hoped: voter suppression bills at the state level.

  254. says

    Summarized from the New York Times:

    The Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s political action committee is unveiling new, bilingual ads targeting four congressional Republicans — each of whom represent districts with large Latino populations — who voted against certifying the 2020 election results. The targets include Reps. Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Mike Garcia (R-Calif.), Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.) and Beth Van Duyne (R-Texas).

    Good. Those representatives should face consequences.

  255. says

    SC @312. Good for her. She is willing to continue the fight.

    In other news that relates to stories of some Republicans willing to speak the truth (summarized from the New York Times):

    In Arizona, Maricopa County Supervisor Bill Gates, a lifelong Republican, was asked about his party’s ongoing election audit. “My fear is that all of this is further tearing at the foundations of our democracy and tearing at people’s faith in our electoral systems,” he told the New York Times. “If there were fraud going on, if there was systematic corruption going on, I would be the first to speak out against it. But we have looked at this again and again and again with numerous audits here.”

  256. says

    GOP tolerates plenty of scandal-plagued members, but not Cheney

    Congressional Republican leaders have standards. They’re just not defensible standards.

    When it comes to the current House Republican Conference, there’s no shortage of members burdened by serious controversies. Among the most notable:

    Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is currently facing a Justice Department investigation over allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a minor, possibly violating federal sex trafficking laws in the process.

    Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) has been dogged by difficult questions in recent months about his ties to white nationalists.

    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) has been connected to an active Russian agent believed by U.S. officials to have targeted our elections.

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is among the most radical members of Congress elected in recent history, including her support for the deranged QAnon conspiracy theory. This year, the public also learned about Greene having expressed support for violence targeting U.S. officials, dismissing 9/11 and school massacres as hoaxes, harassing at least one survivor of a school shooting, and peddling bizarre nonsense about fire-causing space lasers.

    Each of these Republican lawmakers have enjoyed the steadfast support of the House GOP conference.[…]

    Those same Republican leaders said nothing in response to reports on Paul Gosar’s white-nationalist ties, and had no qualms about leaving Gosar on a national security panel of the House Oversight Committee. GOP leaders similarly left Devin Nunes as the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee.

    And, perhaps most famously, nearly all House Republicans, including GOP leaders, stood by Marjorie Taylor Greene when Democrats decided to strip her of her committee assignments.

    And yet, Republicans in the chamber were willing to act against Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), ousting her from her role as chair of the House Republican Conference — not because she’s facing a criminal investigation, not because she’s palled around with white nationalists, not because of associations with Russian operatives, and not because of dangerous crackpot conspiracy theories.

    No, GOP lawmakers instead punished Cheney, while ignoring her far more controversial colleagues, because she told inconvenient truths about the 2020 elections and called on her party to support democracy.

    […] GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill are willing to take action against one of their own, but only if one of their own challenges Donald Trump’s lies and insists that election results matter.

  257. says

    Oh, FFS.

    Representative Madison Cawthorn:

    Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey, goodbye Liz Cheney

    Commentary:

    […] it’s pretty hard to imagine anything more threatening than an entire party cheering on a leader who was single-handedly ensuring that at least half a million Americans would perish during the nation’s worst public health crisis in a century. But Sen. Thune, who’s up for reelection next year, would sure like to try.

    Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, also interested in moving along, still managed to emphasize why the current imbroglio will continue to haunt Republicans.

    “Trying to re-litigate an election which is over and has been concluded by President Trump’s own Justice Department as being free and fair is not productive,” he told the Post.

    Naturally, re-litigating the election is exactly where House Republicans have chosen to plant their flag as they eye the midterms.

    On the other side of the aisle, Senate Democrats view the GOP mayhem as a political opening.

    “There’s an iron rule in politics, which is that when your opponents are destroying themselves, don’t interfere,” said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, who is surely channeling the sentiments of the West Wing.

    Link

  258. says

    […] a spokesperson for Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt had the gall to try to belittle the work of a journalist of color working for a Black-owned media outlet. Sarah Gray, who self-identifies as a “proud citizen of the Cherokee Nation and of Muscogee (Creek) Nation and Kiowa Tribe descent,” is a political correspondent and senior writer for The Black Wall Street Times. After Gray asked routine questions about how a commission voted on legislation and the governor’s involvement, Stitt’s director of communications Carly Atchison wrote and The Black Wall Street Times screenshot this response: “Hi Sarah, thanks for reaching out but our policy is to respond to journalists, not activists pretending to be reporters. Good luck!”

    […] “The governor’s message to the more than 1 million readers of The Black Wall Street Times is clear; he has no interest in sharing information with you, the journalists or Black-owned publication you trust,” the media company’s editorial board penned. “This anti-Black dog whistling is nothing new to members of the press who represent Black media. Anti-Blackness has inarguably become a cornerstone of the Stitt Administration’s general policy position.”

    The news site fittingly based in Oklahoma, the birthplace of the economically thriving Black Tulsa community that is also the news organization’s namesake, was asking the governor about his attendance at a meeting of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission to discuss Stitt’s role on the commission—or more accurately, lack thereof. No one from his office showed up to the meeting on Monday despite being invited, while the governor twice “snubbed” the commission, The Black Wall Street Times reported. “Now more than ever, we need policies that bring us closer together – not rip us apart,” the Republican governor said in a statement on Friday. “And as governor I firmly believe that not one cent of taxpayer money should be used to define and divide young Oklahomans about their race or sex.”

    Stitt made the speech the same day he signed into law Oklahoma House Bill 1775, which The Black Wall Street Times defined as “a law that shields White students from learning about the trauma and effects of systemic racism if it makes them feel discomfort or guilt.” Let’s not forget, this is in a state where white supremacists burned and terrorized the wealthiest Black community in the country, that of Tulsa, in 1921. […]

    Link